It is common to have to double check if you have turned off the oven, or to experience anxiety surrounding the health of yourself or your loved ones every now and then. However, when you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) these thoughts and behaviours become a regular part of your everyday life, and impact how you live. OCD refers to the anxiety disorder which is characterised by recurring unwanted thoughts or sensations (obsessions) as well as the ritualised or repetitive behaviours (compulsions) which you may engage in to relieve anxiety relating to the intrusive thoughts.
For example, someone with OCD may feel the need to check that the candle they just blew out is not still lit repeatedly out of fear they will start a fire or may frequently clean their houses out of fear that leaving them dirty may lead to someone getting sick. While it is normal to experience either obsessions or compulsions throughout daily life, those who have OCD suffer extreme distress from the occurrence of these impulses and can spend large portions of their days ruminating on these thoughts (often up to one hour a day). This may impact their daily functioning, work life and relationships.
Common Obsessions of OCD:
- Fear of contamination from dirt or germs
- Fear of losing control and harming yourself or others
- Fear of losing things which you might need or not having things
- Intrusive thoughts that are sexually explicit, religious or violent
- Obsession with objects being in a symmetrical or specific order
Common Compulsions which may arise with OCD:
- Excessive cleaning of surfaces or oneself (such as washing hands)
- Repeatedly checking on things (such as the door being locked, or electrical items being switched off)
- Repetitive actions – such as tapping, counting, repeating words or actions to alleviate anxiety
- Consistently checking on loved ones to make sure they are safe
- Ordering items in a way which is ‘just right’
Symptoms of OCD may come and go or change in severity over time. People who have OCD may engage in activities which may alleviate anxiety such as drug and alcohol use or may even avoid situations which will trigger their obsessions. In the case of OCD, most people will be able to acknowledge that such thoughts are irrational, however cannot resist the urge to complete the compulsions.
It is important to monitor these behaviours and ensure that OCD is not impacting your life. OCD is treatable, and often the first and most difficult step to recovery is seeking help. If you think you have OCD, call Growth psychology Consulting on 1300 659 067 to book an appointment.