Imagine being unable to leave the house without checking the locks at least 8 times. Imagine having a rigid routine for getting dressed and having to start all over if you didn’t follow the routine exactly. Imagine having to shower three times every morning because three is a lucky number. These are just a few examples of the rituals that those suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder go through each day.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, (OCD), is characterized by obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are persistent thoughts that produce a lot of anxiety. Compulsions are the ritual behaviors that people feel compelled to do in an effort to control the obsessions. It is these ritual behaviors, however, that end up controlling the person.
The rituals bring temporary relief from the anxiety, and thus the person feels the need to constantly perform these behaviors again and again. Most people know that the obsessive behaviors don’t make sense and are not helpful, but cannot seem to stop them. People with OCD continue to perform the rituals even though those behaviors depress them and interfere with their daily life.
Obsessions and Compulsions
The most common obsessions are repeated thoughts about contamination, repeated doubts about safety of others, as well as violent, sexual, inappropriate or bizarre thoughts or images.
To qualify for a diagnosis or OCD a person can have either obsessions or compulsions or both. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts like praying, unnecessary counting, touching objects a certain number of times for no reason, placing items in a particular sequence and spending excessive amounts of time making sure objects are in the only acceptable location (i.e. a book self must be lined up perfectly). Compulsive hand washing is one of the most common compulsions.
The reason people with compulsions engage in this type of behavior is to prevent something bad from happening and or to reduce anxiety. For example, to reduce the anxiety or fear of being contaminated by germs, people with OCD will be compelled to wash their hands repeatedly, even to the point of their skin becoming raw. Washing, reduces their fear of contamination.
Causes of OCD
OCD appears to run in families. Studies on twins and obsessive compulsive disorder have shown that if one twin has OCD the other twin is twenty times more likely than the general population, to also have OCD.
About 1-in-100 adults and 1-in-200-to-500 kids and teens in the United States have OCD. One third of adults with OCD developed symptoms in childhood. There are two main age ranges when OCD usually appears: between ages 10 and 12, and between late teens and early adulthood. OCD is found in all ethnic groups and appears to affect men and women equally.
Treatment of OCD
Medication and cognitive behavioral therapy is the treatment of choice for OCD
Excerpts from The Anxiety Solution Series before and after treatment:
“I tended to touch things 4 times or 8 times which was a lucky number for me. Turning the TV on and off a certain number of times. Things that would delay what I needed to do. I couldn’t just get into bed. I had to do a whole ritual of things in order for me to feel comfortable enough to go to bed so something bad wouldn’t happen. “ - V.P. of Sales
“I would say 16 months ago my anxiety and OCD was a 10. After a year most of the time my anxiety hovers between 3 and 4…I really don’t have compulsions anymore and it’s made a big difference in my life.” - V.P. of Sales
“I can get out of the house to work on time without triple checking the coffee pot.”Teacher, 5-year anxiety sufferer