Relationships, friendships, family-life, school, occupations—all are affected by OCD. It is ten times more difficult to handle any type of pressure or commitment while dealing with this disorder.
OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, is a brain and behavioral disorder that causes severe anxiety on a daily basis, interfering with everyday life. It is categorized as an anxiety disorder.
According to the International OCD Foundation, research suggests that OCD is a result of issues in communication between the front part of the brain and the deeper structures of the brain. OCD can be inherited, but other factors remain unknown.
Those who are plagued with OCD experience highly irrational thoughts, images, and ideas that replay in their mind, disturbing the victims and distracting them from other aspects of their life. These are referred to as “obsessions.”
The coping mechanisms of OCD are called “compulsions.” Compulsions are different for anyone and range from obsessive hand washing to the constant need to confess/seek reassurance. Compulsions ease (though only temporarily) the worry behind obsessions.
The reality behind OCD
OCD, also known as the “doubting disorder,” is often mistaken. Many assume that those who struggle with OCD are neat-freaks who wash their hands every other minute and check that the door is locked ten times before bed. Yes, sometimes this is accurate; but there is much more to the disorder.
For one thing, OCD victims rarely ever feel like anything more than a terrible person. The intrusive thoughts that haunt each sufferer refuse to be dismissed, thus exhausting the sufferer to the point of severe guilt and even depression. The compulsion is to rationalize the thoughts, which almost always fails and leaves the victim fighting an internal battle—strenuous and time-consuming.
A common obsession is the idea of purposely injuring someone, usually a loved one. Because this thought is alarming, it is followed by intense feelings of shame and self-hatred. This is not a quick process—in and out of the mind. These ideas and feelings encompass the brain sometimes for weeks, making everyday tasks much tougher to focus on.
Another example is unwanted yet repetitive sexual obsessions—disturbing sexual images of friends, co-workers, children, and even family members. These thoughts develop out of fear, mostly because they are so undesirable and alarming, thus transforming into a recurring obsession. Though everyone experiences these thoughts, perhaps momentarily, those with OCD cannot simply brush them off or rationally dismiss them. It is tough for them to understand that having these obsessions is common and does not mean that they indeed want these sexual images to be real. The idea leads to shame and guilt; and often times, many begin to question their sexuality, their loyalty to their partner, and their sanity in general.
When I was first diagnosed with OCD as a 7-year-old girl, I had irrational thoughts that I felt I needed to confess: images of stabbing my mother would play repetitively in my mind. Since I was young, I did not understand why this was happening. I cried every day, confessed to my parents, and felt like a terrible person.
I also was terrified of germs and of throwing up. My hands would bleed from the excessive washing I did (my main compulsion as a child.) Any time a classmate was ill, I would worry to the point of self-inflicted illness. My stomach was always in pain from the anxiousness, and I took more sick days in one year than I have in five years, almost having to repeat second grade. When my mother would use tough-love and force me to go to school, I would run alongside of her van and beg her not to leave me. None of my classmates or faculty understood, and I constantly embarrassed myself with panic attacks in class.
As I’ve grown, I have more obsessions than compulsions. After years of therapy, I learned to avoid the temptation of compulsions. The only compulsion I have now is confessing. Any time I have an irrational thought, I feel the need to talk about it with my parents, my friends, and my boyfriend—simply to seek reassurance that I am normal and not insane.
I have been dealing with extreme guilt lately, for simple things such as being moody, arguing with my boyfriend, saying certain things, etc. Although I know that I am human and make mistakes, I tell myself that I do not deserve happiness and fall short of a good person. I then look to my loved ones to reassure me that I am not the horrible girl I perceive myself as. It is a lonely feeling to battle internally.
Treatments and Solutions
Though OCD never simply leaves a person, it can be treated by cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and/or medication.
A piece of advice to those with OCD: Do not feed the obsessions, but do not ignore them completely. Recognize that they are a part of your OCD rather than denying the disorder. Accept help and work hard to stop performing your compulsions. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
By: Samantha Caramela