We all have our little idiosyncrasies. Those behavioural quirks that to most people seem weird. Perhaps it’s that the pegs need to be colour coded when you hang the washing on the line. Or maybe it’s that you need to line up your pens in a certain order. Or even the toilet roll being in the “over” position.
To most people these habits are simply that; habits. Habits that we chuckle at affectionately.
For some people these habits, and many more like them, can be a problem. Hand washing, cleaning, locking doors, sorting/hanging clothes, quoting specific sayings (whether aloud or silently), collecting things, counting floor tiles or cracks in the footpath, going in and out of doorways. All of these, and more, have been noted as common in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
OCD is an anxiety disorder. The person with OCD will experience severe anxiety. They will become obsessed with specific thoughts (e.g., my house will burn down) and to relieve the anxiety the thoughts produce, will carry out certain compulsions (behaviours), such as checking and re-checking that they have turned off the stove and any other appliance that may catch alight. So, the person will become obsessed with the idea of their house burning down, anxious about the possibility and feel the compulsion to check and re-check the stove and other appliances to prevent it.
One of the main characteristics of OCD is that the person with the disorder will recognise that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational. They are aimed at reducing the anxiety or preventing some dreaded event (e.g., house burning down). The thoughts or habits must interfere with daily life and must last for long periods of time (an hour or more per day).
How do you think you’d feel if you were plagued with thoughts that your baby girl is at risk if you don’t check and re-check that you’ve locked the front door? You check it at least 50 times before you can relax. And then you start thinking about all the other dangers she could get into. Maybe it’s combing the sandpit repeatedly to make sure there is nothing that could cut her fragile skin. Or maybe it’s the germs she could pick up if she crawled around on the floor, so you wash and re-wash everything in sight before you let her down to play. And then you follow her around so she doesn’t pick anything up to suck on it.
Can you imagine it?
You know that the thoughts are silly and not based in reality. And yet you can’t seem to control it. How would you feel? Hopefully some of the recent posts we have shared from a few of our readers will give you an inkling. If you experience similar obsessions or compulsions that interfere with your life, please consider seeking professional support from a psychologist or counsellor. Tomorrow we will share the experiences of someone who lives with OCD. In the meantime, if you would like more, technical information please try these sites. They cover definitions, symptoms and common treatments.