OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The disease is characterized by persistent disturbing thoughts, urges and images i.e. multiple types of obsessions that lead to anxiety or distress, and then followed by repetitive mental or behavioral acts i.e. compulsions that the affected person is inherently obsessed to perform, either out of sheer obsession or according to self-made rules that he or she believes must be followed rigidly.
As the experts opine, OCD normally develops in between childhood or teenage years, and can persist lifelong. OCD may develop general to substantial impairment in normal functioning and psychological attitude depending on the level and severity of the illness.
How to Know If you Have OCD?
Early symptoms of OCD are detected in children and teenagers. The symptoms are feeble at the early stages and gradually exacerbate with age. Symptoms of OCD can be mild to severe. Many individuals may have obsessive thoughts without any compulsive behavior. People with OCD do not find anything wrong in obsessions or the behavior they show. Hence, washing hands after a handshake or changing cushion covers right after a guest's visit though seem unusual to a normal person, is a common deed of OCD patients.
Let's look at the symptoms of obsessions and compulsions separately to better understand the disease and help you know if you have OCD or not:
- Obsession Symptoms: Obsessions in OCD patients are repeated, unwanted and persistent in nature. People with OCD sense urges, observe certain images and delve into thoughts that evoke distress, anxiety or tension every time those "impulsions" appear before them. They generally try to get rid of them by performing a compulsive or ritualistic behavior on repetitive basis like washing hands as many times as handshake is done with visitors or restlessness after observing disordered room or wardrobe etc. Obsessions often have the following signs:
- Always looking for perfection and finding faults in others especially in arrangement of household articles, and furniture etc.
- Inspection of foods in kitchen, refrigerator or at shops in fear of contamination and dirt.
- Hostile or horrific thoughts of harming himself or a second person.
- Unusual thoughts about religious matters, and rituals especially of others.
- Persistent sexual thoughts.
- Compulsion Symptoms: Unlike other types of compulsions, OCD compulsions are recurring in nature that normally outbreak through behaviors that the person with OCD is forced to perform. These recurrent behaviors are intended to prevent or cut anxiety related to aforementioned obsessions or more precisely in perception of avoiding something bad that could happen if the actions aren't performed. However, OCD patients only get temporary relief from the anxiety and soon it erupts with some other reasons. Like obsessions, compulsions also have signs as mentioned here:
- Washing and cleaning house hold linen, furniture and every minute article.
- Counting in certain unusual patterns
- Checking places or things repetitively and showing doubts after every checking like whether the doors and windows are locked properly or the kitchen sink is cleaned in right manner etc.
- Demanding reassurances from others even on petty matters.
- Following a rigid routine without any relevant reasons which sometimes even lead to health hazards.
- Orderliness that seems irrational to other members in the same household.
Normally individuals with OCD cannot be recognized by outsiders who don't interact with the persons regularly. No physical symptom appears, hence OCD patients are just like any other normal person as far as their social behavior is concerned. However, experts try to relate certain physical abnormalities with OCD, like patients compulsive to frequent washing and cleaning may develop skin related problems that lead the mental health professionals to get into the root of such dermatological problem.
Warning Signs that Can Help You Know if You Have OCD
There's no specific warning sign of OCD, as everything depends upon the perception of the patient, other members of the family and of course on the decision of the mental health professional regarding the outbreak and degree of the problem in a patient. However, a few warning signs are worth mentioning to figure out if you are having OCD:
Compulsive Hand Washing: There is nothing wrong in thorough hand washing even several times a day. Compulsive hand washing is a different act and is done when the person feels that he is not getting absolute sanitization. The urge commonly stems from a fear of germs and dirt. In severe cases of OCD it also can be rooted in fear of getting sick or making near and dear ones sick from "invisible" gems and dirt cling to the fingers. OCD patients with this type of hand washing compulsion are categorized as "washers". If you are experiencing symptoms of this type, do get it checked.
- Compulsive Cleaning: People with cleaning obsession have it for all forms of cleaning at houses. They don't find anything clean and always get a reason to clean floors, furniture, kitchen, bathroom, linen and even the tiniest articles in the house.
- Checking Behavior: Checking behaviors in OCD patients interfere with normal lifestyle of the person and other close family members. Returning several times near the door while leaving the house to see whether it is locked properly or not, or checking the electric gazettes in the same fashion are examples of warning signs as far as checking behaviors are concerned.
- Counting Behavior: Some OCD patients like to count numbers in a certain numeric pattern while performing tasks or utter numbers while climbing a stair, walking or simply cleaning. In most of the occasions these behaviors are driven by superstitions.
- Compulsive Orderliness: People with compulsive orderliness are always in a hurry to arrange asymmetrically placed articles and furniture. Many people like to see their rooms or tables neat and tidy, but when it becomes a habit to make the tables, rooms, wardrobes etc clean every now and then and fussing over every trivial matter it becomes a warning sign of OCD. Even arranging the money in a particular order is also a sign of OCD if it is hindering other things.
- Fear of violence: Everybody has fear of violence or antisocial activities, but individuals with OCD avoid even visiting nearby parks or crowded places in fear of some violence.
- Unusual Sexual Thoughts: Unusual sexual thoughts, most of which is considered as taboos, comes in mind every now and then in an OCD patients. The patient understands that these thoughts are not usual but they can't resist and also can't express in fear of adverse reaction from others.
These are the most common warning signs and symptoms that can help you know if you have OCD. If you notice any of the above mentioned signs for a period of most of the days in 2 successive weeks do visit a mental health professional. Mental health practitioners can get into the problem more easily to understand the intensity of the problem.
How to Know if Your Child has OCD?
Children normally have worries and doubts, but children with OCD can't stop worrying even on very inconsequential matters. These worries often compel them to behave in certain ways continuously.
OCD makes daily life of children and their family members very difficult. The compulsive behavior consumes time and energy thereby making it difficult to accomplish normal task and getting involved into play and other enjoyments. Children with OCD realize that their behavior is not normal, but they can't control their activities or thoughts. This makes them feel guilty and embarrassed about their thinking and unrealistic feeling.
Among the children the most common obsessions may include the following:
- Apprehension of contamination, dirt and germs in foods and drinking water.
- Aggressive thoughts.
- Emphasis on lucky and unlucky numbers.
- Anticipation of illness or harm coming on self or on family members and friends.
- Urge of getting household matters in orders.
- Unusual sounds and words.
The most common compulsions found in children with OCD are as follows:
- Kids with OCD spend much time in grooming, and washing.
- Too much attachment with rituals including going in and out of doorways, reading a single topic several times, erasing a space on white paper repetitively, and overwriting.
- Repetitively checking homework.
- Avoiding physical contacts with assumed contaminated or dirty clothed persons.
- Counting on every other matter as if it is a ritual.
- Collecting things which have no apparent value.
- Cleaning and washing repetitively
- Asking parents and other family members to join with him or her in practicing the same rituals.
When to see a doctor?
Sooner a patient suspected with OCD is taken to a doctor, better will be his or her chance to recover early. Problem is that in most instances, OCD affected people ignores or suppresses their problems from the family members and in many other instances family members ignores the unusual behaviors of the affected individuals.
Though there is no parameter or level to decide whether to visit a doctor or wait more, some behavioral aspects may be considered as sufficient reasons to visit a doctor:
- Compulsive activities take more than an hour every day.
- Person himself or herself feels distressed.
- Compulsions immensely affect other normal activities and social relations.
At the first instance, it's feasible to consult with a General Practitioner, who may primarily detect the disease and refer the case to a psychiatrist, and behavioral therapists for getting deep into the problem and starting proper treatment. In modern medical science, there are both medicines and therapies available to cope with the problem.
Individuals with OCD understand that their behavior is not normal. However, in most of the occasions they suppress the matter from family members or friends. Instead, they should come forward and start a treatment to get rid of OCD. More the symptoms are suppressed; more intensive will be symptoms of OCD day after day. On the other hand, family members and close friends should also support the suspected person mentally and handle him or her with patience to make the entire treatment procedure more effective and faster.