OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER (OCD)

"I'm a little OCD about getting to work on time." "My girlfriend is OCD about germs."  OCD is a common phrase people use.  But true obsessive-compulsive disorder appears in different ways, and not every person has the same symptoms; many people have combinations of various OCD symptoms.  In general, people with OCD experience unwanted and intrusive thoughts that they can't seem to get out of their heads (obsessions).  These obsessions often compel them to perform ritualistic behaviors and routines (compulsions) to try and ease their anxiety.

In terms of mental health challenges, OCD is fairly common, affecting around 3% of Americans during their lifetime. These intrusive thoughts and compulsions affect men, women, teens, and children from every background, race, and ethnicity. But with the right therapy that targets the anxiety, people can find relief. 

Most adults who have OCD are aware that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational, yet they feel powerless to stop them. They may spend several hours every day focusing on obsessive thoughts and performing seemingly senseless rituals involving hand-washing, counting, or checking to ward off persistent, unwelcome thoughts, feelings, or images. These can interfere with a person's normal routine, schoolwork, job, family, or social activities. Trying to concentrate on daily activities may be difficult.
 
Unlike adults, children and teens with OCD may not realize that their obsessions and compulsions are excessive or even view their symptoms as a disorder that can be treated.

Symptoms of obsessions (unwanted intrusive thoughts) might include:

  • Constant, irrational worry about dirt, germs, or contamination.

  • Excessive concern with order, arrangement, or symmetry.

  • Fear that negative or aggressive thoughts or impulses will cause personal harm or harm to a loved one.

  • Preoccupation with losing or throwing away objects with little or no value.

  • Excessive concern about accidentally or purposefully injuring another person.

  • Feeling overly responsible for the safety of others.

  • Distasteful religious and sexual thoughts or images.

  • Doubting that is irrational or excessive.

Compulsions (ritualistic behaviors and routines to ease anxiety or distress) include:

  • Cleaning — Repeatedly washing one’s hands, bathing, or cleaning household items, often for hours at a time.

  • Checking — Checking and re-checking several to hundreds of times a day that the doors are locked, the stove is turned off, the hairdryer is unplugged, etc.

  • Repeating — Inability to stop repeating a name, phrase, or simple activity (such as going through a doorway over and over).

  • Mental rituals — Endless reviewing of conversations, counting; repetitively calling up “good” thoughts to neutralize “bad” thoughts or obsessions; or excessive praying and using special words or phrases to neutralize obsessions.

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