Understanding OCD and its symptoms
Some of us want to arrange everything perfectly or find solace in following a particular routine. However, when such thoughts of organizing and arranging things in an orderly manner turn compulsive and intrusive, it might be obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD belongs to the spectrum of anxiety disorders and is a complicated mental disorder. It can slowly overwhelm a person disrupting their daily routine. The mental disorder usually manifests around 20 years of life and continues throughout life.
According to the National Health Portal (NHP), two or three percent of Indians may develop symptoms of OCD during their lifetime. Additionally, OCD may co-occur with other mental health disorders like Tourett’s disorder, social phobia or depression, making it difficult to diagnose. The severity of OCD symptoms may vary from mild to moderate to severe from time-to-time.
OCD symptoms can be divided into compulsive and obsessive symptoms. These include the following:
- Hoarding: This behavioral pattern is characterized by the habit of accumulating things of little or no value. This behavior is common but when it is combined with symptoms of other mental disorder like depression, tic disorder, etc. it can indicate OCD.
- Arranging things: Someone who is suffering from OCD has this intense urge for things to be arranged in a certain way. For example, they would arrange the toiletries in such a way that they face the same direction. This symptom also includes repeatedly counting things in a particular way and arranging them with the intention to getting relief from stress.
Another type of symptom in this spectrum involves touching or rubbing items in a particular way for a specific number of times. For example, touching a doorknob six times before leaving the house. Such behavior is done to avoid supposedly unlucky numbers.
- Obsessive handwashing: Often people suffering from OCD, wash their hands frequently or indulge in excessive use of hand sanitizer resulting in chaffed and chapped hands. This behavior stems from the irrational fear of germs, being immoral or impure, making others sick, and cleaning surfaces that are frequently touched. Such people go to great lengths to avoid shaking hands, hugging, or getting in any sort of physical contact with others because of their fear of contamination.
- Checking appliances: This symptom is quite common with about 30 percent of people suffering from OCD. They tend to returning to appliances repeatedly to check if they are properly shut off. This behavior is triggered from the fear of being irresponsible and getting hurt because of any appliance malfunctioning.
- Negative thoughts: People suffering from this symptom fear the food that they have cooked, check doors and windows continuously and obsessively remove sharp objects from view to avoid getting hurt or hurting others. They also battle negative thoughts about getting hurt or hurting somebody else in an accident or by manual violence.
- Mental rituals: Some people need to run particular routines, like saying prayers or repeating their daily routine, in their head multiple times in order to get them “right”. At times, completing these mental routines, which might take hours to conclude, becomes an obsessive habit hampering a person’s normal routine. Because this is not a visible symptom, it is difficult for loved ones and doctors to identify this.
- Avoiding triggers: People who recognize their triggers tend to avoid certain places, situations, events, or people, in order to avoid initiating their symptoms. This is a coping mechanism for them but may hamper their lives by limiting their movement and involvement with others.
- Seeking constant reassurance: Seeking reassurance from others and by checking things is normal. However, when this is done repeatedly to the extent that a person may even return back home to check things or asks for reassurance continuously, it can indicate OCD.
- Religious guilt: People with OCD tend to place a lot of emphasis on religion. They feel that they can never be properly cleansed of their impure actions and/or thoughts. While normal people tend to move on from a disturbing thought, people with OCD continue to dwell on them, adversely affecting their life. Experts feel that this is the reason why some of these people follow extensive prayer routines.
- Memory accumulation: OCD patients experiencing this symptom tend to memorize all the details of a particular object, event or situation, with the belief that they would need to re-produce these with 100 percent accuracy at a later stage. While they over-memorize things, they forget to live in the moment missing out current experiences.
- Dermatillomania: Another prominent symptom of OCD, people with dermatillomania or excoriation disorder tend to pick at healthy skin creating lesions and abscess. The symptom may go away from time to time to return with greater intensity. Often, people suffering from this disorder feel that they cannot go out because they are embarrassed about their skin lesions. They also tend to wear full-sleeved clothes to hide the skin lesions.
- Sexual obsessions: Approximately six to 24 percent people, both males and females, suffering from OCD experience sexual obsessions. Their obsessions revolve around forbidden themes like sex with minors, incest, or sexual abuse. However, once such thoughts occur, they are repulsed and feel guilty. They then perform elaborate rituals to purge themselves of the guilt of these immoral thoughts.
- Losing control: The thought of losing control over things really scares people with OCD. This is the primary reason why they indulge in double-checking certain things, performing certain superstitious rituals, and completing tasks in a particular way.
- Dissecting relationships: People with OCD tend to dissect their interactions with people. They spend too much time pondering over their communication, even with strangers, wondering if they somehow offended the person. This results in self-doubt which gradually becomes a part of their personalities. This also makes it difficult for them to form and maintain relationships.
- Body dysmorphic disorder: People with OCD tend to find certain parts of their body, usually skin, nose or hair, unattractive. They spend hours in front of the mirror checking these features and obsessively fixating on them.
While most of these symptoms can amount to normal behavior, one must remember that when these thoughts turn compulsive or are accompanied by symptoms of other mental disorders, they may suggest a manifestation of OCD.
Seeking help for OCD
Most people suffering from OCD try to ignore the compulsions and obsessions that they experience. When they do so, they get anxious and distressed. Gradually, the anxiety and stress overwhelms them making them act on their compulsions and obsessions. The more people ignore their symptoms, the greater the stress, compelling them into a more ritualistic behavior. This invariably creates the vicious circle of OCD.
However, breaking out of this circle is easy with the right treatment from a professional OCD treatment center. Athena Behavioral Health offers the best OCD treatment in India comprising medication management, counselling and therapies. Before we customize an OCD treatment plan for our patient, we assess them thoroughly with the help of our software tools. To know more about our OCD treatment plans, call our 24/7 helpline 9289086193. Alternatively, you can chat with our trained counsellors for further assistance.