Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition in which people feel trapped in an unwanted pattern of stress and behaviours. It is estimated that approximately 2% of people globally suffer with the condition and it is indiscriminate.
Males or females can be affected, and it can last several years or even be a life-long condition. It is a condition exacerbated by stress, therefore this article will explore the basics of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, including the different symptoms, causes, and self-care treatments available.
What is OCD?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a stress disorder described by obsessions and compulsive behaviours that cause people to feel anxious or distressed. A person with this condition often cannot stop thinking and behaving a certain way over a long period. Sufferers of this condition will typically know that their behaviour is unreasonable and will try to resist performing specific actions. The individual cannot withstand thoughts and behaviours for long periods. Some people with OCD experience their obsessions in a visual form, while others may experience them as auditory, tactile, or olfactory.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental disorder that causes moderate to severe stress, making it hard for the person to function generally. Stress may create physical symptoms in the form of sweat or body aches which are usually very difficult for people with this disorder to control.
People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are also likely to feel anxious or guilty about these compulsive behaviours, which increase the sense of distress and lead to even more compulsive behaviour. People with OCD usually have other problems, such as depression, stress, or eating disorders, and are often misdiagnosed before they receive the correct diagnosis.
From thoughts to behaviours
Irrational thoughts are also common in this condition and may include ideas about dangerous infections or violence towards oneself or loved ones. People notice persistent thoughts, and uncontrollable images in their minds. These thoughts and images can seem quite natural to the person with the disorder, and they will usually try to avoid them by performing compulsions. A person with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder may have difficulty controlling the urge to act on stress and these unwanted images and thoughts. They may find this behaviour extremely hard to resist and will often abuse themselves in this manner for long periods.
These behaviours may be experienced as irresistible compulsions, such as excessive hand washing. They are obsessed with performing some ritualistic or repetitive action. The person may feel that if they do not perform these behaviours, the consequences will be severe such as death. These compulsions can be very distressing, and people with this condition may feel a tremendous amount of fear due to their obsessions.
People with OCD may recognize that these thoughts and behaviours are irrational, but they still need to perform them. People with this condition then try to control this behaviour by performing further irrational rituals such as repeating specific phrases over and over. These obsessions and rituals are disruptive, time-consuming, and embarrassing, making it hard for people with this disorder.
People with OCD can also use other practices, such as counting or checking, to control this unwanted behaviour. They may feel they cannot stop the unwanted behaviours and will often try many different strategies.
Causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
The exact cause of this disorder remains a mystery; however, genetics is known to be the leading cause of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is known that Obsessive-compulsive disorder runs in families, with about 50% of the people with OCD having a relative with the Disorder. Some research suggests that if one identical twin has this disorder, their twin will also have it. Family members can provide clues about who might have it by reporting their symptoms and those of other family members. Researchers continue to search for genes involved in this disorder, such as chromosomes and brain chemistry.
About 10-15% of people with OCD have a chemical imbalance in the brain called an “organizationally inappropriate” neurotransmitter problem. It is brought on by a chemical imbalance in the nervous system that causes a person to have more substantial than normal feelings or compulsions leading to stress.
The environment may also play a role in the development of the obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is especially true in childhood when environmental events such as abuse may trigger the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Other factors, such as the combination of heredity and a specific environment, may also cause Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
The Role of Stress in OCD Aggravation
Stress can both trigger Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or even make it worse, and also interfere with treatment. It is essential to identify stressful events and learn how to manage them quickly and efficiently.
An example would be avoidance of a feared situation common in OCD with the primary stressor being a person’s reaction to the event. It may be worsened by the impact of secondary stressors like loss of ability to function around one’s peers or bosses, at work or school, changes in family life, moving, or the death of a loved one. The presence of secondary stressors can be minimized by seeking treatment and avoiding situations that trigger obsessive-compulsive disorder-related symptoms.
OCD can be mentally draining for the sufferer, which in turn can impact physicality, potentially leading to exhaustion and possible burnout (as an indirect consequence of constant stress associated with OCD).
How Does Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Affect Everyday Life?
People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are affected by the stress of their symptoms in many ways as people with OCD often struggle to maintain normal personal, family, and professional relationships.
They may be continually distracted by thoughts and images and be hard to interact with. They may spend too much time trying to organize their environment or performing compulsive rituals. These obsessive actions can make inclusion in social activities and being productive and efficient in a professional work environment difficult.
Self-care Tips To Minimise Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Symptoms
People with OCD may be able to reduce symptoms of this disorder if they can manage their stress levels. Seeking treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder stress is the best way to help address it.
The first step in managing obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms includes avoidance. People with this disorder should avoid places or things that trigger their symptoms, or obsessions.
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People with this condition should try to develop a flexible schedule to incorporate their habits and rituals into everyday life. A program will help people with OCD to track what needs to be done and in what order which should reduce anxiety levels.
Seeking Appropriate Help
Other self-care tips include treatment for depression, stress, or other mental health disorders. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder have one or more co-occurring mental health disorders is common; identifying these conditions early and seeking treatment is essential in reducing the adverse effects of this disorder.
Where Can I Get Help with My OCD?
Identifying signs early on in the disorder is helpful to help people get treatment as soon as possible to reduce the distress caused by these symptoms. A behavioural therapist, psychotherapist, OCD specialist or Stress Coach can help a person gain control over their thoughts, feelings, stress, and behaviours.
The International Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Foundation (IOCDF)  is dedicated to helping individuals affected by OCD and their families. They fund essential research, offer free educational materials, host an annual conference for experts and others impacted by OCD, provide support groups, and work hard to relieve the fears associated with this disorder. The IOCDF also works to increase public awareness of obsessive-compulsive disorder and its treatment and to provide professional education.
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- iocdf.org – International OCD Foundation – found on 23/02/2023
Link to page on iocdf.org