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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental illness in which the affected person has irrational thoughts that lead to abnormal compulsive behaviour. It is typically characterized by an excessive desire for perfection, orderliness, cleanliness, etc. Obsessions are unwanted thoughts and urges, which are beyond one's control. This can even cause depression and anxiety. 

Compulsions are repetitive actions that an obsessive person engages in, to eliminate their uncontrollable thoughts. These compulsive behavioural patterns tend to repeat themselves. It is automatic, unstoppable, and senseless. This anxiety disorder is inherited, but the underlying cause has yet to be identified.

Signs and Symptoms of OCD 

OCD is characterized by a wide range of symptoms classified into distinct categories. The symptoms manifest as repetitive actions that the patient engages in to alleviate the compulsive thoughts. The symptoms may last 50-60 minutes, interfering with daily life. Women are more susceptible to this disease than men.

Some of the significant symptoms are as follows:

Obsessions and compulsions are common symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, it is possible to have only obsession or only compulsion symptoms. You may or may not realise that your obsessions and compulsions are excessive or unreasonable, but they consume a significant amount of your time and interfere with your daily routine as well as social, school, or work functioning.

Disturbing thoughts: Some people have excessive fears of harming themselves, leading to violent compulsive behaviour. They are constantly preoccupied with death and injury to a family member.

Constant Checking: Checking and keeping track of items regularly is an example of OCD. Checking the appliance switches, lights, locks, oven, and so on is a compulsive behaviour that helps people overcome their fear of forgetting or losing things.

Symmetry: Obsession with selecting or maintaining a specific form, order, shape, or size. For example, when making omelettes, using eggs of the same geometrical size.

Fear of Contamination: Washing hands frequently and obsessively cleaning clothes and the home, to eliminate becoming dirty and contaminated.

Other examples of compulsions include:

  • Counting the number of steps taken each time the person ascends the stairs.

  • Avoid making physical contact with anyone or anything, avoid using public restrooms, and avoid touching doorknobs.

  • To be aware of normal body functions, you must constantly blink and breathe heavily.

  • Developing paranoia and a tendency to suspect others.

Now let us look into the specificities of symptoms:

Symptoms of Obsession

OCD obsessions are intrusive, repeated, and unwanted thoughts, urges, or images that cause distress or anxiety. You could try to ignore them or eliminate them by engaging in a compulsive behaviour or ritual. These obsessions usually interfere with your ability to think or do other things.

Obsessions frequently have themes, such as:

  • Concerns about contamination or dirt

  • Doubt and inability to tolerate uncertainty

  • Things must be ordered and symmetrical

  • Aggressive or terrifying thoughts of losing control and injuring yourself or others

  • Unwanted thoughts, such as aggression or sexual or religious themes

 Examples of obsession signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Fear of becoming contaminated by touching objects that have been touched by others

  • Not sure if you've locked the door or turned off the stove.

  • When objects aren't neatly arranged or facing the right way, it causes a lot of stress.

  • Images of crashing your car into a crowd

  • Thoughts of yelling obscenities or acting inappropriately in public disturbing sexual images

  • Avoiding situations that can set off obsessions, such as shaking hands

Symptoms of compulsion

Compulsions associated with OCD are repetitive behaviours that you feel compelled to perform. These repetitive behaviours or mental acts are intended to alleviate anxiety caused by your obsessions or to prevent something negative from happening. Compulsions, on the other hand, provide no pleasure and may only provide temporary relief from anxiety. When you have obsessive thoughts, you make up rules or rituals to help control your anxiety. These compulsions are excessive and frequently unrelated to the problem they are meant to solve.

Compulsions, like obsessions, usually have theme, such as:

  • Washing and cleaning

  • Checking

  • Counting

  • Orderliness

  • Following a strict routine

  • Demanding reassurance

Examples of compulsion signs and symptoms include:

  • Hand-washing until your skin becomes raw

  • Checking doors repeatedly to make sure they're locked

  • Checking the stove repeatedly to make sure it's off

  • Counting in certain patterns

  • Silently repeating a prayer, word or phrase

  • Arranging your canned goods to face the same way

Causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Although there are no known direct causes of this mental illness, some factors trigger obsessive-compulsive behaviour.

  • Depression or anxiety

  • Childhood abuse and sexual assault

  • Experiences of trauma

  • Genetic factors

  • Physical deformities in the brain

  • Perinatal OCD, which is caused by pregnancy or the experience of going through a difficult childbirth

Treatment of OCD

This illness has no cure, but it can be managed with antidepressant medication and cognitive-behavioural therapy.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy 

It is one of the most widely used treatments for OCD. Most therapies employ a type of CBT known as Exposure and Response Preventive (ERP), which is specifically designed to achieve the desired outcomes. It is regarded as the most effective form of treatment for the condition.

Now put on your thinking hats and think about the following questions for a couple of minutes.

How would you explain the term “obsessive-compulsive disorder” to your students?

Can you think of some factors that may contribute to borderline personality disorder?

Can you think of ways to help a friend or relative who is suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Write down your thoughts and discuss them with your students, children and your colleagues. Listen to their views and compare them with your own. As you listen to others, note how similar or different your views are to others’.

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Happy Teaching!