Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that affects 1.2% of the population in the UK (OCD-UK, 2015). A sufferer of OCD is considered to have different thought pattern to the average person, as well as reacting differently to negative ‘intrusive’ thoughts that come and go throughout the day. OCD is provoked by anxiety. An OCD sufferer becomes anxious about a bad outcome happening regarding a particular event/memory/activity. To try and eliminate the risk of this thought becoming true, they carry out a particular routine or habit obsessively. Carrying out this routine reduces the anxiety associated with this thought in the short term but does not unfortunately help sufferers in the long term. Sufferers of OCD feel trapped, which also adds to the anxiety, stimulating the OCD inside of them even more.
Although the sufferer experiences instant relief once they’ve carried out their habitual routine, there is still the element of distress that comes from performing it. In the midst of it, the sufferer asks themselves questions such as ‘Did I actually do that properly, or was I fooling myself?’ OCD sufferers hate uncertainty, which is why they routinely carry out their obsessive action to try and eliminate the risk of the bad outcome associated with the intrusive thought happening. Once they have doubted that they haven’t done their routine to the correct standard, they will do it again and again until they feel they can move on. This in turn causes even more distress to the sufferer, as they can’t stop doing the ‘habit’ until they have done their routine to perfection.
For instance, sufferers, who are obsessed with cleaning and putting things in order, will go to great efforts to make sure that their houses have no contamination and are set up in such a way that doesn’t impose high risk for their intrusive thought becoming true. They could feel that if they don’t perform this routine in such a way, germs will breed which can lead to family members and friends becoming ill. Another example can be seen through sufferers who constantly check objects in their home. Checking taps, locks and doors to see if they are shut and locked is considered responsible to most of us, OCD sufferers check numerous times – again and again, standing in the same spot or coming back just seconds later after they last checked it. This becomes obsessive and can take them a long time to leave the house if locking the front door for example. This ‘checking’ is mainly associated with someone breaking into a house or stealing valued possessions etc.
It is a huge step for someone who suffers with this mental condition to ask them to change even the smallest thing about the ‘habit’ or ‘routine’ that is causing them mental distress. It could be a life changing event, a memory or activity that has bad associations to the sufferer that causes them to have this thinking pattern. It is also the fact that no one is the same and that we all have different levels of hormones and chemicals that affects and influences our mentality. There is medication out there which can help normalise these levels, which you should talk about with your GP. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), counselling and holistic treatments are also all ways to try and move forward with this condition. CBT is considered the recommended treatment for this type of condition, as it focuses on changing the way the sufferer thinks, as well as helping to determine and rationalise their intrusive thoughts and thought patterns. It takes time but it is life changing for someone who has made centralised their day to day existence on their OCD.
Having been diagnosed with OCD myself, I know it is such an inflicting and imposing condition that affects the quality of life dramatically. It is a long journey to recovery for an OCD sufferer but it’s definitely worth the trip.
OCD – UK (2015). Can be viewed online at: http://www.ocduk.org/ocd