Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder in which a person experiences obsessions and compulsions. An obsession is an intrusive and unwanted thought of which an individual cannot rid themselves. Compulsions are actions done to relieve the stress caused by the obsessions.
Do I/You Have It?
Every person has some level of obsessive-compulsiveness, but this does not make one obsessive-compulsive (OCD). The key difference between OCD and the normal spectrum of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors common to all humans is the level of disruption caused by these thoughts and behaviors in an individual’s life. One moves from the normal spectrum of human behavior into a disorder when the obsessive-compulsive symptoms interfere with one’s ability to execute life as desired.
One might be obsessive about checking the door twice – but this takes an extra five seconds and does not interrupt one’s normal daily functioning. On the other hand, someone with OCD might spend several hours checking the door, thus significantly disrupting their ability to function in normal society.
Forms of OCD
OCD can taken on innumerable forms and may change forms over the years in a single individual. I personally have suffered from the following obsessions/compulsions:
- Compulsive Hand Washing (to the point of bleeding).
- Irrational Fear of Loved Ones (fear of being attacked, murdered by).
- Door Checking (irrational fear of being raped in the shower).
- Extreme Perfectionism (taking many hours to complete tasks that could be accomplished in much shorter lengths of time, or not completing a task at all because of an inability to perfectly complete the task).
- Religious (Scrupulosity) Perfectionism (extreme rigidity in relationship with God resulting in significant mental distress and a distancing from others).
- Profuse Apologizing (for the most minor offenses, even offenses others weren’t aware I had committed).
- Irrational Germ Phobia (especially afraid that my germs would injure others, resulting in rituals to avoid contaminating others but can also be an extreme fear of contamination by others of oneself).
- Unreasonable Doubts (about my own nature, whether I had or had not done certain negative acts).
- Checking if I ran over a person on the road (I didn’t).
- Pulling at one’s hair (I like to blame my premature balding on this).
I have personally known fellow sufferers of OCD who have experienced:
- Obsessions with Numbers – A need to avoid the presence of certain numbers in their external world as well as in their thoughts. Having to correct these “wrong” numbers with “good” numbers.
- Obsessions with Movement – Movement must occur in a very precise fashion with the correct attitude or it must be repeated ad nauseum until done correctly.
- Extreme Dietary Concerns – A concern with diet which results in significant weight loss to the detriment of their health.
In addition, some lesser-known forms of OCD include:
- Pure Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (POCD, Pure-O) – In which one has internal obsessions but does not take external compulsive actions to mitigate these obsessions.
- Relationship Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (ROCD, rOCD) – In which one feels constant insecurity or instability in one’s relationship(s) with another individual.
Humorous Intro to OCD
If you are not familiar with OCD I would encourage you to watch USA’s Monk. It is a relatively clean and entertaining show that chronicles the adventures of a detective whose greatest gift is his OCD (because it allows him to notice details) but also his worst curse (it interferes with his relationships and prevents him from performing necessary activities in life). It portrays many of the real struggles that an individual with OCD experiences, and while Monk may be entertaining (I laugh), the experiences portrayed are anything but entertaining for the sufferer.
- There is also what is known as Pure-O, which is an individual who does not have compulsions but is purely obsessive, but in most cases individuals experience a combination of obsessions and compulsions.↩
- The OCD individual may struggle with questions of whether a thought is truly unwanted. For example, does one want to dwell upon an intrusive sexual thought? It is possible that some small part of one’s being may want to – but when the whole is brought into angst and distress, it is safe to assume that this is a result of intrusion rather than volition. Rest in the grace of God!↩
- For example, needing to wash one’s hands for an hour might cause one to miss a date or be late to work and thus rupture a relationship or terminate an employment.↩
- Note that activities such as gambling, sex, and alcoholism are generally not categorized as being OCD. While these problem behaviors may be compulsive in nature the act itself provides pleasure to the practitioner – at least momentarily, whereas OCD is generally considered to be an instance in which the only benefit of performing a compulsion is a reduction in pain.↩
- A disorder related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is Trichotillomania – which involves obsessive pulling or picking at one’s hair; also Dermatillomania which involves picking at one’s skin.↩
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is also related to Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).↩
- For those who are wondering if they have ROCD or would like to learn more about it, a good introduction is found at http://www.relationshipocd.com/. The site was created by someone in recovery from rOCD and includes a number of short blog articles in a somewhat haphazard order. The grammar and spelling isn’t the best – but the information seems to be top notch. A more scholarly option is http://www.rocd.net/ but it appears the site is down at the moment AND it is very much on the scholarly end – making it a little difficult for lay readers.↩