Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, commonly known by as OCD, is classified under the family of anxiety disorders. It has various sub-types that are prevalent across the world. In the US alone, OCD affects more than two million adults. It’s worth mentioning that this stat does not account for the majority of cases which remain unreported. Also the numbers of OCD cases in minors are also not included in this report.
Many people don’t consider OCD as a disease because its mild symptoms don’t affect the everyday routine of the affected individuals. But that doesn’t mean one should completely overlook the signs and symptoms of this problem.
If left untreated, although not prominent, it can transform into a full-scale mental issue where the affected individuals are unable to operate normally. To understand OCD in a better way, let’s break it down into its two parts i.e. obsession and compulsion.
Obsession entails the recurrence of unwanted thoughts and ideas which the affected person is not in control. These undesirable, recurring thoughts can be very radical in nature and bring about distress and discomfort.
These obsessions might involve endlessly thinking about highly unlikely and/or horrible scenarios. For instance, constantly thinking that something very bad will happen to your loved ones without any reason or imagining scenarios where you are meeting a sudden, unexpected death.
This obsession can also be an acute order without any rationale. Having unreasonable distrust and disbelief can also be the elements of the obsession part of an OCD case. Religious reservations, doubts and inappropriate sexual scenarios can also impinge on the affected individual.
The second part of OCD entails certain actions where the affected person acts impulsively for his/her survival. Compulsions for affected individuals are more important than any sacred ritual. If they remain unable to carry out those tasks, they get extremely disturbed and can’t operate normally until getting done with their compulsive actions. Repetition is one of the primary motifs of this compulsive behavior.
Connection of Obsession and Compulsion
People who are suffering from OCD often experience a crossover between obsession and compulsion. With the help of a very frequent example, we can understand the connection of obsession with compulsion.
Let’s assume you are ‘obsessed’ with the thought that you will get infected by a serious disease, then subsequently you might develop a ‘compulsion’ to repeatedly wash your hands. This is one scenario that is fairly common, especially these days when all news media continuously reminds us that we are in the midst of a flu epidemic.
People who do continuously wash their hands may be considered a germaphobe, associated with condition called Germaphobia. Although not always in the OCD class, as it is a healthy routine. Some famous people who are known to be germaphobes are Howard Mandel and President Donald Trump. Howard Hughes and Sadam Huesin were also known to be part of the germaphobia category, but others who allow their routine to get to the point that their lifestyles are affected, then they would fall the category of OCD. When the ritual, whatever ritual that may be becomes so daunting that the individual must change their routine to the point that it interferes with their life is when they would fall into the class of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
And if the OCD gets worse, people may ultimately refuse to shake hands with others and get severely disturbed if they touch any object they consider contaminated.
Types of OCD According to Symptoms
OCD can be classified in several sub-types according to the appearance of different symptoms. However, the primary elements of obsession and compulsion remain present in any of these sub-types.
OCD of Washing and Cleaning
We have discussed this sub-type in the previous section where people are obsessed with the fear of getting contaminated and therefore compulsively perform washing of the contaminated (supposed) body part.
OCD of Checking
In this type of OCD, the affected individuals become obsessed with unrealistic scenarios involving harm and destruction. To make sure that any such thing is not happening, they develop a compulsive ritual of checking. For instance, constantly thinking of a fire in somewhere in the house, then repeatedly checking the gas valves.
OCD of Inappropriate Thoughts
There are no visible symptoms of this type of OCD. It involves the obsession with unsuitable thoughts surrounding sexual, violent, and religious motifs. Affected people internally try to suppress these thoughts which results in a visible anxiety.
OCD of Maintaining an Order
It is one of the most common sub-types of OCD where people are obsessed with maintaining a symmetry which leads to the compulsion of arranging and ordering the things and objects around them without any reason. Many individuals consider this type of OCD a good thing because of the meticulousness associated with it.
Hoarding is now also classified as a sub-type of OCD. It involves the collection of items and objects which don’t hold any importance in general. Collecting empty jars, cans and boxes, piling up old clothes which are not in use anymore are some of the examples of compulsive hoarding.
People with compulsive hoarding can cram their home spaces with unnecessary clutter. An unwarranted emotional attachment is often the reason behind compulsive holding.
In the next article, we will talk about ways to cope with different symptoms of OCD.