Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can take many forms.
- A woman visits her dermatologist, complaining of extremely dry skin and seldom feeling clean. She showers for two hours every day.
- A lawyer insists on making coffee several times each day. His colleagues do not realize that he lives in fear that the coffee will be poisoned, and he feels compelled to pour most of it down the drain. He is so obsessed with these thoughts that he spends 12 hours a day at work – four of them worrying about contaminated coffee.
- A man cannot bear to throw anything away. Junk mail, old newspapers, empty milk cartons all could contain something valuable that might be useful someday. If he throws things away, something terrible will happen. He hoards so much clutter that he can no longer walk through his house. He moves to another house where he continues to hoard.
These people suffer from OCD.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that more than 2 percent of the U.S. population – nearly one out of every 40 people – will suffer from mild to severe OCD at some point in their lives.
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Intrusive, irrational thoughts – unwanted ideas or impulses that repeatedly well up in a person’s mind. Again and again, the person experiences disturbing thoughts, such as “my hands must be contaminated,” “I may have left the gas stove on,” “I am going to injure my child.”
On one level, the sufferer knows these obsessive thoughts are irrational. But on another level, he or she fears these thoughts might be true. Trying to avoid such thoughts creates great anxiety.
Repetitive rituals such as hand-washing, counting, checking, hoarding or arranging. An individual repeats these actions, perhaps feeling momentary relief, but without feeling satisfaction or a sense of completion.
People with OCD feel they must perform these compulsive rituals or something bad will happen.
Most people at one time or another experience some obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors.
OCD occurs when an individual experiences obsessions and compulsions for more than an hour each day, in a way that interferes with his or her life.
OCD is often described as a disease of doubt. Sufferers experience pathological doubt because they are unable to distinguish between what is possible, what is probable and what is unlikely to happen.
In lay terms, something in the brain is stuck, like a broken record. Judith Rapoport, M.D., describes it in her book, The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Washing, as “grooming behaviors gone wild.”
How is OCD treated?
OCD is treated with psychotherapy or a combination of medication and psychotherapy.