Are you suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

By Nur Elani Binti Hashnor 

First and foremost, it is normal to double-check that the windows in the room or door is locked. But, if you suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours become extreme as they interrupt with your daily life.

Let’s go to the definition of OCD. This is an anxiety disorder characterised by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviours you feel forced to perform. If you have OCD, you might recognize your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are irrational. But you feel unable to resist them and break free.

OCD causes the brain to get stuck on a particular thought or urge. For example, you may check your locker five times before you go to class, to make sure your locker is already locked or you check iron plug again and again to make sure it is already turned off or not.

Obsessions are involuntary, seemingly uncontrollable thoughts, images that exist over and over again in your mind. While compulsions are behaviours that you feel driven to act out again and again.

There are five categories under obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) namely: 1) Washers, 2) Checkers, 3) Doubters and sinners, 4) Counters and arrangers, and 5) Hoarders.

The first category is washers, who are afraid of contamination. They usually have cleaning or hand washing compulsion. For example, they might bring hand-sanitiser anywhere with them.

Secondly, checkers, who repeatedly check things that they relate with harm or danger. For example, car is locked and iron is turned off.

Thirdly, doubters and sinners, they are afraid if everything is not done or they think something terrible might happen as a punishment.

Fourthly, counters and arrangers, whom they are obsessed with order and symmetry. They might have superstitious kind of thinking on certain numbers, or colors, or arrangement. For example, for the Chinese they believed that red symbolises good fortune and joy while number eight is regarded as the luckiest number.

Lastly, hoarders, whom they fear of something bad might be happening if they throw anything away. They will usually keep things that are unnecessary and unused.

OCD signs and symptoms: Obsessive thoughts

Common obsessive thoughts in OCD include:

  • Fear of causing harm to yourself or others.
  • Fear of losing or not having things you might need.
  • Fear of being contaminated by germs or dirt.

OCD signs and symptoms: Compulsive behaviours

Common compulsive behaviors in OCD include:

  • Spending a lot of time washing or cleaning.
  • Repeatedly checking in on loved ones to make sure they’re safe.
  • Excessive double-checking of things, such as appliances, locks, and switches.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy for OCD

It has two components, namely, 1) exposure and response prevention and 2) cognitive therapy. The first component involved repeated exposure to the source of your obsession.

Next, you are asked to restrain from the compulsive behavior that you usually perform in order to reduce your anxiety. For example, if you are a compulsive hand washer, you might be asked to touch the door handle in a public restroom and then you need to prevent yourself from washing. As you sit with the anxiety feeling, the urge to wash your hands will slowly go away on its own.

Secondly the cognitive therapy where it focuses on the terrible thoughts and exaggerated sense of responsibility you are feeling. Cognitive therapy for OCD is teaching you healthy and effective ways of responding towards obsessive thoughts without resorting to compulsive behaviour.***

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