Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

OCD

In obsessive-compulsive disorder, people have obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are recurrent thoughts, while compulsions are behaviors. Let’s talk first about obsessions. Obsessions are intrusive thoughts that come over and over again and are distressing. Worries about real-life problems don’t count – the obsessions must be about things that don’t make sense or that are exaggerated. People attempt to ignore or suppress the obsessions with some other thought or action. And the person having obsessions recognizes them as a product of his own mind.re

Let’s talk first about obsessions. Obsessions are intrusive thoughts that come over and over again and are distressing. Worries about real-life problems don’t count – the obsessions must be about things that don’t make sense or that are exaggerated. People attempt to ignore or suppress the obsessions with some other thought or action. And the person having obsessions recognizes them as a product of his own mind.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person performs to neutralize or decrease an obsession or to prevent a dreaded situation. However, these behaviors are not realistically connected to the outcome. OCD causes a lot of distress and impairments in home, work, social, or school functioning, and are typically time-consuming.

For example, Jim has constant worries about germs and contamination. Although he knows, rationally, that there are not likely to be harmful germs on most objects, he has a constant feeling that his hands are dirty. To feel better, he washes his hands, but it only helps for a brief time. Anytime he touches anything, he gets strong anxiety and a desire to wash his hands. He avoids business meetings because people shake his hands and he can’t excuse himself to wash. His hands are very dry and raw as a result of so much washing, and he has been less successful in his career than he could have been.

Other common obsessions, other than germs or contaminations, have to do with putting objects in order (for example, having extremely organized closets or cabinets, with extreme distress if something is moved), checking things over and over, such as the stove or locks, obsessions against one’s religious beliefs, distressing thoughts of violence or having hurt someone, counting or performing actions a certain number of times, having to touch objects a certain number of times or in certain ways, or sexual obsessions.

A related set of symptoms includes picking or pulling hair or skin.

Over three million Americans suffer from OCD,  men and women equally. Symptoms often appear during childhood, and, like most disorders, the symptoms can come and go over time.