As the name suggests, OCD covers two things: obsessions and compulsions. It should be pointed out at that most people have some obsessive thoughts and some compulsive behaviours at times. They should only be a cause for concern when due to regularity or intensity they cause suffering to those who suffer from them or their friends and family.
Let’s take them one at a time: Obsessions:
Obsessions are disturbing thoughts that plague your mind. Common obsessions include fearing that you or a loved one is in danger from a faulty household appliance like a stove that leaks gas. An obsessive fear of dirt, germs and grime is also common. It is said that English football legend Paul Gasgoigne sometimes drove thirty miles or more back to his house on occasions, convinced he had left the door open. Another sufferer believed great misfortune would fall on him if sentences he read did not have a number of letters and punctuation marks in it that was divisible by three.
Often compulsions are carried out in order to lessen the impact of, or reduce anxiety from obsessions. They normally take the form of repeated actions. In some cases they are directly linked to the compulsions (for example regularly checking that the door is locked, or that the oven has been switched off properly). Sometimes the compulsive behaviour is not seemingly linked to anything and takes on the form of a slightly strange religion, for example the compulsion to touch many different objects in order to ward off evil.
Common compulsions include:
- Constant washing
- Avoiding certain colours, textures, or materials
- Performing rituals
- …the list is potentially endless.
The film “As Good as it Gets” with Jack Nicholson is a light-hearted look into the world of OCD, which may be interesting for those who know a sufferer and find it hard to understand.
The prognosis is good and making a complete recovery and being free of obsessions and compulsions is definitely within your reach. The mainstream medical approach involves Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and sometimes drug therapy. For more info why not check out OCD Action.