“It's like you have two brains - a rational brain and an irrational one and they are constantly fighting between the right and wrong."
What are anxiety disorders?
Anxiety is an unpleasant, vague feeling of discomfort or uneasiness. All of us feel scared and anxious at some point in our lives, however when this anxiety starts disrupting a person's day-to-day functioning, it can be classified as a disorder. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD as we commonly call it is one such anxiety disorder along with many others like PTSD, Panic disorder, Phobias etc.
What is OCD?
A lot of us suffer from intrusive thoughts on a daily basis. These are inappropriate, irrational and in most cases morally wrong. Some common intrusive thoughts are-
- While driving a car you might think of running over the other car
- Causing harm to a very near or dear one.
- Bad thoughts or images during prayer or meditation
- Thoughts of being crazy
These are fleeting, annoying and fearsome. According to Lee Baer, a famous psychologist, suppressing these thoughts only makes them stronger.
However, similar to anxiety if these thoughts start hovering over your daily life and cause compulsive behavior, this can be coined as an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD is an anxiety disorder, which causes immense discomfort. Sufferers are often riddled with persistent and recurrent impulses and unwanted thoughts. An OCD sufferer is also stuck with intrusive thoughts called obsessions followed by repeated behavior known as compulsions.
I remember growing up hearing about a uncle in my family who doesn't go anywhere, and doesn't want to drink/eat from anyone's place. I had never met him in person until 2 months back. I met him, we had a good time talking but me being an extremely observant person couldn't let go of the little details I was able to put my hands on. The only thing known about him was that he was extremely fearful of eating at someone else's place. Yes, he was suffering from OCD and the sad part is no one in my family is aware of this. This is why mental health awareness is extremely essential in India as sufferers of mental health disorders are called names or are tagged with labels for other people aren't aware of the same. Seeing a psychiatrist still means, 'being crazy.'
How many types of OCD are there?
Checking - the need to check is the compulsion, the obsessive fear might be to prevent damage, fire, leaks or harm. Common checking includes:
- Gas or electric stove knobs (fear of causing explosion and therefore the house to burn down).
- Water taps (fear of flooding property and damaging irreplaceable treasured items).
- Door locks (fear of allowing a burglar to break in and steal or cause harm).
- Windows (fear of allowing a burglar to break in and steal or cause harm).
The checking is often carried out multiple times, sometimes hundreds of times, and for hours on end, resulting in the person being late for work, dates and other appointments. This can have a serious impact on a person’s ability to hold down jobs and relationships. The checking can also cause damage to objects that are constantly being checked.
Hoarding - Another obsession long considered to be part of ‘OCD’ is the inability to discard useless or worn out possessions, commonly referred to as ‘hoarding’.
Intrusive Thoughts - Intrusive thoughts, in the spectrum of OCD, are where a person generally suffers with obsessional thoughts that are repetitive, disturbing and often horrific and repugnant in nature. For example, thoughts of causing violent or sexual harm to loved ones. The very idea that they are capable of having such thoughts in the first place can be horrifying.
Contamination – the need to clean and wash is the compulsion, the obsessive fear is that something is contaminated and/or may cause illness, and ultimately death, to a loved one or oneself. Other examples of this fear are
- Using public toilets (fear of contracting germs from other people).
- Coming into contact with chemicals (fear of contamination).
Symmetry and Orderliness - the need to have everything lined up symmetrically just ‘right’ is the compulsion, the obsessive fear might be to ensure everything feels ‘just right’ to prevent discomfort or sometimes to prevent harm occurring.
PURE O- Some individuals may suffer from “Pure Obsessional OCD” (sometimes called “Pure O”) in which they experience thoughts without compulsions.
TREATMENT FOR OCD.
OCD is like any other disease and can be controlled by many means. This means it is like having asthma or diabetes. You can get it under control and become recovered but, at the present time, there is no cure. It is a potential that will always be there in the background, even if it is no longer affecting your life. The current thinking is that it is probably genetic in origin.
Although you can resist performing a compulsion, you cannot refuse to think an obsessive thought since they are biochemically generated mental events that seems to resemble ones own real thoughts, but aren’t.
- Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy is the best form of treatment for OCD.
If you think you are suffering from OCD, please don't fear visiting a psychiatrist or Clinical Psychologist. They can help you since psychiatrists can prescribe you medicines and a psychologist can perform therapy.
You cannot and should not depend upon the help of others to manage your anxiety as it may get worse and may prove to be real dangerous.
It is vital to remember that no one is perfect, nor can anyone recover perfectly. Even in well-maintained recoveries, people can occasionally slip up and forget what they are supposed to be doing. Luckily, there is always another chance to re-expose yourself and so, rather than a person beating themselves up and putting themselves down, they can soon regain their balance if they immediately get back on track by turning again and facing that which is feared, and then not doing compulsions.
Finally, because health is the result of living in a state of balance, it is extremely important, post-therapy, to live a balanced life, with enough sleep, proper diet and exercise, social relationships, and productive work of some type.
Take care of your mental health folks, it's equally important!