I feel as though we hear about OCD fairly often. Unfortunately not because we are educating each other, but rather a stigma about it. People view it as something laughable, but don’t get the whole image of just what it means to have OCD.
Recap: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is another branch from the anxiety tree in which people have recurring thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). In order to be diagnosed with OCD, one must have the presence of an obsession and/or compulsion that are time-consuming, cause major stress, and can impair daily life. According to a research report, 1.2% of Americans have OCD and it affects woman more so than men.
Obsessions are “recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that cause distressing emotions such as anxiety or disgust.” There are many people who have OCD that actually recognize that the thoughts and impulses they have are a product of their mind. Unfortunately, no amount of logically reasoning will settle these intrusive thoughts.
Compulsions are “repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels driven to preform in response to an obsession.” These behaviors are used to prevent or at least reduce the amount of distress brought on by obsessions. In an aforementioned article, they had some examples of compulsions listed:
- cleaning (to reduce fear of contamination)
- repeating (to dismiss anxiety)
- checking (to reduce the fear of harming themselves or anyone else)
- ordering and arranging (to reduce discomfort)
- mental compulsions (to respond to intrusive obsessive thoughts. This could be praying or saying phrases to reduce anxiety or keep something bad from happening)
OCD appears during childhood, teenage years or early adulthood. Causes of OCD could be:
- A chemical imbalance in the brain
- Distorted beliefs can maintain the symptoms associated with OCD
- Compulsions are learned behaviors, so they could be habitual as they help with relief from anxiety.
There are some treatment options for OCD, these include:
- medications (antidepressants that affect the serotonin system have been found to reduce the symptoms of OCD.)
- support groups
- cognitive behavior therapy (can improve symptoms because it aims to change patterns of thinking, beliefs, and behaviors that trigger anxiety and OCD symptoms. It uses education to promote control over the symptoms.)
- anxiety management techniques (slow breathing, meditation, etc.)
I am very grateful for the interviews I got to have with two lovely people. It was very interesting to see how different OCD can vary from person to person. So for the first question, I honestly wanted to know what their obsessions and compulsions were:
“They’re mostly anxiety driven. Like, I’ll wonder if I’ve locked the front door, turned the stove off, shut the garage…really normal people things. But unless I check it myself, the days ruined. My anxiety will turn into obsessive thoughts over it and I can’t enjoy whatever we were supposed to be doing. It feels like my heart is going to come out of my chest. Also (yeah this is shitty but bear with me) I know ALL moms get tired of hearing “MOM!” all day, or just noises from their kids like damn I need a break, but when it is SO REPETITIVE on their part, I do break. I end up screaming. Because again, it feels like my heart is going to just burst from my chest. There are certain noises (like those letters or numbers that when you get them wet they stick to the side of the tub) and when you drag them I get so close to vomiting. Idk if thats OCD, but I have to then grab the letter (or if I scratched something tap it, etc) and push on whatever surface it was until it makes a noise I’m happy with.”
~As you can see from above, mental illness can take hold of your family life as well.~
“I am a high functioning cleaner, I literally clean everyday! If I plan a trip I have to do my whole house or I think about it the whole time and it literally takes over my life! Things have certain places and even moved an inch I know and it has to be put back! I have to have my bed wrinkle free and made everyday as well as doing laundry it has to be completed the day I start it! Cleaning sometimes helps my anxiety and depression but sometimes the smallest things such as shoes in my house or clothes on the floor break me down and I’ll just cry which invoked the anxiety and depression! I wish so many days that I could just not for one day do anything but unfortunately that doesn’t happen! I pop my fingers and toes till they have all popped or I restart and I don’t get sleep because I never stop thinking about things that could be done! It destroys me most days and I hate being this way but I guess it’s who I am. When I am the passenger and I get anxious I start with trees and count until grass just appears and than a tree starts it over I honestly don’t know why I do it it just keeps my mind off things cause I fear death and hate driving or hearing sirens when I don’t know if loved ones are safe so I call right away and I have a big family.”
Sometimes people have certain obsessions and compulsions that make it hard to not only live, but to leave the house and be out in public. I wanted to know how exactly their OCD affected their daily lives or when they are out in public.
“Yes, I typically take a xanax around noon daily and then if I need it again around 6pm or so. I know that sounds awful, but I’d rather be a calm, rational mom than one who’s freaking tf out over mixed play-doh. mmmm….I feel like in a public setting (just like any mom) I’m paranoid someones going to follow or take the kids or I but like at a heightened level. If it’s just (name) and I crowds don’t really bother me, but I do need alone time to recharge.”
“My daily life honestly I have my moments where I just break down and in public I truly feel more comfortable with someone with me because I always feel I should be going faster such as when I put items on line at grocery store I have them in certain order and I feel like I’m a pain! I know my life could be worse but I am truly blessed to have very awesome family and friends who try and help me their best. I have always seen myself as a very outgoing person and still am around the right people but when I first started the farm anxiety attacks I realized how much it just takes life right out of you.”
Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do to cope when it comes to OCD. However, coping skills can be used to ease the panic attacks that come with it.
“Breathing. Alone. In a quiet room. And prayer”
“When I go thru anxiety attacks I do deep breathing in and count in 5 and out 5 until my body relaxes! I’m also on medication for depression anxiety and ocd. Unfortunately not my ocd is sometimes what helps my anxiety and ty so much i appreciate it!! I guess I do put music on and try to relax to it which sometimes helps.”
And of course, my favorite question. What is something you would like to tell people about OCD?
“It’s not just the compulsions you see on tv shows. Like having to turn the light on and off a certain amount of times. It may include that. But there are so many more mental factors you’ll never see.”
“I wish people would not think of it as a joke and really consider people’s feelings and do what you are doing and just ask.”
OCD is one of the most played down disorders. It’s association with people having to spend a lot of time doing one thing seems humorous, but it goes deeper than that. It’s someone’s uncomfortable obsession to calm their compulsion. Someone’s way to conceal the urges they get.
It was truly an honor to get a first hand view from these individuals about what they face daily and being able to get to know them a little bit more. Everyone is different in how they handle times of stress, you are not alone here. I never ever want to pretend like I know how anyone feels so I use real people to give you real suggestions and real experiences so that you will know that.
I hope you have an awesome week! Until next Sunday!
Bipolar Weirdo ❤
Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional. If you have mental health related questions, I highly recommend you seek a healthcare professional.