Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What is OCD?

It is quite disturbing that people often use the term OCD in a way that it sounds like something common or mild and as if the condition is nothing serious. Anytime people say “in case you have OCD” or that they have a little bit of OCD, I don’t think it is appropriate. Those people are punishable by a big kick in the mouth, repeatedly. There is no such thing as a little bit of OCD and there is no need, under joking circumstances, to say something presuming any chance that you live with the condition. You are not a doctor; even if you are, you must be a very bad one. Doctors don’t make jokes about their patients.

What is OCD
Feeling the urge to wash a fork before and after meal is hardly a sign of OCD

OCD, which stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is a type of mental illness that can affect people of all ages. There are two major components of the condition: Obsession and Compulsion - in that particular order. A person with OCD cannot help but display certain compulsive behaviors anytime the individual is faced with unwanted yet inevitable intrusive distressing anxious feelings or thoughts. Unwanted obsession (which causes the distress) comes first, and the compulsion follows as a form of counter-measure to relive the anxiety.

People can be obsessed with many things such as cars, toys, neighbors, Game of Thrones, or maybe porn stars. As a result, they also probably have excessive worries, doubts, fears, or superstitions every now and then. The vast majority can control these thoughts and feelings in a way that they avoid doing compulsive behaviors to reduce the obsessions. People trigger largely unnoticeable responses for example if you come across your neighbor-slash-crush, you can pretend to look the other way or type something on your phone; when Internet is down and you can’t stream the latest movies featuring your favorite stars, you can wait for few hours and stop by your neighbor instead. The point is you have the option to give any kind of hopefully appropriate response that makes logical sense.

OCD patients have their own overweening fears and concerns. The big difference is that they cannot control the worries; in fact, the worries are in control of their lives. When these worries come across their minds, they try to handle their situations by doing some compulsive behaviors that may not make any sense at all. In many cases the worries are simply triggered by something very common for examples untidy desk, improper alphabetization of stuffs, disposal of unused items, being in a crowd, or asymmetrical layout of something. In their minds, such occurrences are chaotic and may result in serious (even life-threatening) consequences.

Possible Causes of OCD

People with OCD are often portrayed in popular media as those who constantly need to wash hands, clean everything, tidy up even a slightest mess, or have rituals to start every morning. In real life situation it is not the rituals that matter, but the conditions that make the patients do the rituals. While OCD is not yet fully understood, there are several theories concerning what may cause it to happen:

  • Genetics: there is possible genetic component related to OCD – no specific genes have been identified.
  • Environment: changes in environment or infections may trigger OCD. This may include stressful or traumatic life events which lead to emotional distress. Experiences of traumatic events increase the risk of triggering a cycle intrusive anxious thoughts. Again, more research is needed to confirm this theory.
  • Biology: changes in brain functions may cause OCD. It is also possible that OCD is related to other mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders.

What has been understood is that an instance of OCD happens because the patient’s brain incorrectly processes certain information. Any kind of obsession, worries, and fears must be dealt with immediately or they never stop. In other words, the brain gets caught in a cycle of intrusive thoughts. Keep in mind that people with OCD understand that their brains’ warning systems do not work correctly; they understand the anxiety is not real but they don’t have the capacity to get away from the intimidating thoughts. During an OCD episode, the patient is tortured with a seemingly endless anxiety and desperately trying to stop it.

Obsessions and Compulsion

As mentioned earlier, many people have some sorts of obsessions and perhaps compulsive behaviors as well but it does not necessarily mean everyone has OCD. Only when obsession and compulsion are inseparable train of thoughts and become extreme to the point where they disrupt life or daily activities, then they need to be treated from medical perspectives.

The term “obsession” is indeed often used in everyday casual conversation. There is no law to prevent you from using or writing it. As a matter of fact, the ability to spell obsession properly is a reliably sign of average IQ. What you need to understand is how to differentiate the context between obsession as a disorder and as a pleasantly normal thing.

In an OCD case, obsession does not have any pleasurable component. People with OCD do not want to get caught in obsession with anything. For OCD patients, obsession is time-consuming, exhausting their energy, and extremely interfering with their lives. Once again, the patients mostly realize that their obsessions are not real but they cannot get rid of the uncomfortable feelings.

Compulsion follows obsession. Similarly the compulsion part is repetitive and done to at least neutralize the obsession. OCD patients develop many different compulsive behaviors for examples trying to count number to infinity, repeating the same phrases for long period, washing their hands excessively, and relentless tapping, and so on. In any case, those compulsive behaviors are not pleasant for OCD patients but they have to do it as temporary relief. One of the common suggestions to avoid doing the rituals is to keep the obsession going. For some patients this is just impossible or simply too disturbing if the obsession is in the form of continuous negative thoughts.

In non OCD case, obsession is more likely used to describe a somehow excessive fondness of something. You may be obsessed with a song, a woman, a man, a cartoon character, James Bond, The Walking Dead, a phone, and so on. Even with that many obsessions, however, you can still do your daily activities without triggering a massive mental and physical breakdown. If you keep listening to a song from your shiny new phone during class activity, you can’t say you have an OCD when the teacher asks you to get out. You don’t have an OCD; you are just not the best student. Claiming to have an OCD as an excuse makes you a bad person. You don’t develop disruptive compulsive behavior when you get bored with the song the next day or when a bigger shinier phone which looks exactly the same and does exactly the same things becomes available next week. And assuming you cry every time a new phone is released, the crying is not a compulsive behavior, it is just something else.


Therapy and medications are the most common treatments for OCD patients. Therapy may include physical activities to help get rid of the obsession excessiveness for examples undisruptive relaxation techniques and regular exercise; medications may include SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) drugs such as Zoloft and Prozac. Education to help patients understand more about their conditions may also help.