Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder that causes the person with it to have intrusive thoughts and often feels compelled to do certain things. They often have thoughts that germs will constantly get them sick, or that they will be responsible for some tragic accident. Or, they often have to arrange items in such a way or perform a certain daily routine or ritual the exact same way until it feels right. If it doesn’t feel right, they can find themselves doing it over and over for minutes and even hours. Even when they finally perform the ritual right or put the items in the right order, they don’t feel a wave of satisfaction, but rather a temporary respite from the feelings of anxiety. This means that the person lives a life of jumping from dealing with one compulsion to the next, making it very hard to function normally.
One of the most common forms of OCD that most people associate with it is the fear and anxiety felt over contamination and germs. People that experience this can feel that simply touching a doorknob will result in them receiving some horrible disease. They also can feel the same aversion to germs when it comes to social interaction. They will avoid shaking hands and physical contact so they don’t contract various sicknesses. The way that most people with level of OCD deal with it is by constantly cleaning. It’s possible for them to wash their hands for hours in an effort to rid themselves of any germs, even though its pointless to wash any longer than a few minutes. They can’t stop washing their hands or cleaning themselves until the anxiety associated with contamination subsides. This often results in them rubbing their hands raw and causing themselves great physical distress.
Another compulsion that people most frequently associate with OCD is the process of checking. This involves the person with OCD checking objects that could potentially pose a threat to them over and over in order to lessen the feelings of anxiety. These objects could include a stove, door locks or lights, which they may check frequently, despite knowing that it is safe. These checks can number into the hundreds which greatly affects the life of the person because it takes time away from them.
Yet another common compulsion that people identify OCD with is ordering. This is when the person feels strongly compelled to place every object in a specific place in order to avoid chaos, whether it be at their work desk or at the dinner table. This can often cause conflict as people who are unaware of, or forget about, the person’s need to have everything in the correct place. While this can be positive in moderation as it is beneficial to be organized, OCD does not allow the person to do it in moderation. They can spend hours making sure that every piece is in the correct place. A branch off of this is perfectionism. People with OCD can need for every last item to be perfect, because they feel anxious about how anything less than perfect could reflect on them. It’s the fear that others could think less of them based on their mistakes that causes them to push themselves to perfect everything.
It’s clear that OCD is a drastically life changing disorder, and is not to be thought little of. It can change a person’s life and alienate them from friends, family and coworkers. Luckily, there is assistance out there in the form of medication and behavior therapy. With the help of a medical professional, people with OCD can begin taking strides to lessening their need to satisfy compulsions and can live without those thoughts and feelings.