What is OCD?
I'm a little apprehensive to blog about this topic - I'm not really shy about the fact that I have OCD, just a little wary of droning on about the same topic constantly. However people often have a lot of questions when I do tell them what I suffer with so I thought I'd try and give a little insight to anyone who's interested.
I'm not completely comfortable going into too much detail about my specific type of OCD, however I will try to provide as much general information as I can.
To start with; the basics:
There are multiple types of OCD. These can range from 'Pure O' to 'Contamination type'. I'll say a little about some of the more common types.
Pure O gets its name from the fact that there are no physical compulsions associated with it. A compulsion is an action which a person carries out once they get an intrusive thought. These so called compulsions temporarily relieve the anxiety which said intrusive thought causes. A common example is: "My hands are dirty" as an intrusive thought, and the compulsion would be to hand wash.
With Pure O the thoughts could be anything ranging from "I'm a bad person" to more severe, distressing thoughts such as "I have killed someone" or "I am inappropriately attracted to someone". These thoughts are not true reflections of a person. This is clearly demonstrated by the anxiety they cause.
There are no compulsions as such related to these thoughts. They will cause the sufferer to feel physically unwell - this is the activation of the sympathetic nervous system which controls our fight or flight response - this is the anxiety.
When I was young I didn't realise I had OCD as it was primarily Pure O. Signs that someone you know is suffering with OCD may be:
- constantly asking for reassurance
- constantly "feeling bad" or having a "bad belly"
- the need to "confess" all the things they feel guilty or upset about
Thoughts which a person gets which are considered intrusive could be anything. For example, these thoughts could be violent or sexual images or concerns related to a person's sexuality or religion.
Whilst these types of thoughts are often related to Pure O, sometimes ritualistic behaviours can be carried out to "counteract" these thoughts - these are the compulsions. An example of this is a person worries about their sexuality, or they are having intrusive thoughts about inappropriate people (maybe a relative). This person may then tap or think a certain word every time they have one of these thoughts to try and null it.
Contamination is the transfer of one product to another - by touch or otherwise. People often worry about contamination - illnesses are often spread this way. In OCD these worries are far more extreme than usual.
In terms of OCD, contamination could relate to a person worrying they will contract an illness or STD from touching a person or an object which other people have touched.
Contamination could also relate to a person worrying that they will spread germs themselves which may be harmful or unclean and infect other people with them.
This type of OCD will lead to obsessive cleaning. This cleaning is not necessarily cleaning of objects however. This is because if the fear of germs is very strong, people with OCD often are unable to come into contact with germs in any way, shape or form. They will avoid cleaning, laundry, bathrooms, handles, light switches, taps and so on..
So, often people with this type of OCD will either wash everything which other people touch so that they do not infect themselves OR they will wash themselves and avoid contact with other people and objects as they do not want to infect other people or come into contact with the germs at all.
Additionally, sometimes a person can have an intrusive thought which makes them want to wash as they feel unclean yet they haven't actually come into contact with anything.
Some other types of OCD:
Hoarding is actually an obsessive compulsion where the anxiety originates from the fear of throwing away or losing something important or nostalgic.
Checking behaviours originate from the fear of forgetting to do something correctly. For example checking that the house is locked, or that the oven is turned off.
There are also superstitious types of OCD. Sometimes people have the belief that if they do not do a certain action or do something a certain number of times, something bad will happen - such as injury to a loved one.
I hope that this little insight leaves people feeling more clued up about OCD. It's important to remember that mental illnesses can be just as debilitating and physical illnesses and should not be taken lightly.
If believe that you or someone you know is suffering please do not do so in silence or alone - if you can then contact your local GP and most importantly TALK TO SOMEONE. Please don't be embarrassed or ashamed. Everyone has weird thoughts. People with OCD just focus in on them more.. we are clearly just hypersensitive people!