What Is OCD?
Like a skipping CD, someone with OCD gets trapped in cycles of repeated worrisome thoughts or images and the actions they feel they are needed to counter these anxiety producing thoughts.
Obsessive compulsive disorder, as the name implies, is a disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts and/or by compulsive actions.
Common obsessions can include an obsessive worry about germs, a worry that the stove, or iron is on, or a worry that you caused a traffic accident. This worry causes obsessive repetitive thoughts or images that come at inappropriate times and that won’t go away, often repeating over and over again. These repetitive obsessive thoughts are beyond control and unwanted; and although someone with OCD may know that the way they worry is abnormal, they can’t keep themselves from it.
People who experience obsessive thoughts often develop compulsive behaviors or rituals that they use to manage them; to make the thoughts go away. These rituals do not give pleasure; they simply help to alleviate worry and anxiety. Someone who worries about germs, may develop a hand washing compulsion, ritualistically washing their hands until red and raw, to control the anxiety they feel. Someone who worries about leaving the stove on may count to 100 back and forth as they continually test the stove, to ensure that is off.
The ritualized compulsive act temporarily neutralizes the anxiety, but must be repeated when the thoughts again intrude. This pattern of thought and action can become very time consuming, occupying hours each day.
What Are Some Common Obsessions and Compulsions?
Intrusive thoughts can occur about a wide range of topics, but there are certain topics that are more frequently encountered.
Common obsessive topics include:
- A fear of germs or dirt
- A fear of hurting someone else
- A fear of making a mistake
- A fear of hurting yourself
- Sexual thoughts
- Religious worries, worrying about bad thoughts
Common compulsions include:
- Hand or body washing rituals
- Counting rituals
- Touching rituals
- Rechecking rituals
- Repeating certain words, prayers of phrases
- Performing a ritualized task a set number of times
- Collecting meaningless items
Page last updated Jul 22, 2011