What is OCD?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder defined by the presence of intrusive and unwanted thoughts, ruminations, images, doubts, urges, and/or impulses, aka obsessions. These cause someone strong feelings of stress, fear, worry, apprehension, and/or dysphoria. They are distressing and can cause overwhelming anxiety.
Obsessions are often accompanied by compulsions. They can manifest as repetitive actions, thoughts, phrases and/or rituals that need to be performed and repeated. This is done to provide relief from anxiety and/or “prevent” a thought or event from coming true. Compulsions in the form of actions (such as washing one’s hands) are very obvious to those around someone with OCD. More dastardly are mental compulsions that no one else can witness. These can leave sufferers feeling alone and completely trapped.
Obsessions and compulsions take up a lot of time in someone’s life. An hour or more everyday can be devoted these thoughts and actions. Sufferers’ school and work lives are often impacted by this disorder. Many people, especially adults, struggling with OCD are aware that their obsessions don’t make sense; which can cause even more anxiety.
Those with OCD are at greater risk of having additional and/or related mental disorders. In other words, comorbidity. Moods disorders, such as depression, and other anxiety disorders are often paired with OCD. However, one can have any mental disorder alongside OCD.
A study conducted in the U.S. from 2001-2013 found that 2.3% of adults surveyed met the criteria for lifetime OCD and an additional 1.2% had prevalent OCD symptoms in the year leading up to the survey.
Subtypes of OCD
Many people do not realize just how many themes OCD focuses on. Pretty much every aspect of your life can be effected by this disorder. Some obsession themes are seen as more disturbing and socially unacceptable than others. Often these types include violent and sexual themes. This leads to fewer sufferers speaking out about their struggles and seeking the help they need. It should be noted that some types can have the same abbreviation (HOCD for Harm OCD and Homosexual OCD, for example). Below are some common obsessions and compulsions:
- Contamination OCD
- Mental Contamination OCD
- Harm OCD
- Suicidal OCD
- Checking Compulsions
- Counting Compulsions
- Symmetry/”Just Right” Obsessions
- Sexual Orientation OCD (often called Homosexual OCD)
- Pedophilia OCD
- Incest Intrusive Thoughts/Obsessions
- Gender Identity OCD (often called Transgender OCD)
- Intrusive Sexual Thoughts/Obsessions
- Scrupulosity/Religious OCD
- Pure O
- Relationship OCD
- Existential OCD
- False Memory OCD
- Real Event OCD
- Sensorimotor/Body-Focused OCD
- Responsibility OCD
- Somatic OCD
- Violent Intrusive Thoughts
- Postpartum/Postnatal OCD
Some disorders closely related to OCD include:
- Hoarding Disorder
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder
- Dermatillomania/Skin-Picking/Excoriation Disorder
- Trichotillomania/Hair-Pulling Disorder
- Hypochondria/Health Anxiety
Please note: this is not an all-exhaustive list of the many conditions people suffering from OCD have. There are likely some not listed here.
There is no known cure for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but there are several treatment options. For medications, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin reputake inhibitors (SRI), and one tricyclic antidepressant (TCA), clomipramine, have been proven to be helpful in some patients.
Alternatively, there are psychotherapy options available in group and individual settings. Cognitive therapy teaches the patient challenge distorted thought patterns and coping skills. Emotion and response prevention (ERP) therapy has the patient intentionally trigger their anxiety and then not act on the desire to do a compulsion that provides relief. ERP is perhaps the most effective treatment currently available for OCD, but not every patient can handle the incredible amounts of stress involved.