Remember Monica Geller from the evergreen sitcom Friends, and her obsessive need to keep everything neat and clean, and always in place? Well, you can say she was a cleanliness freak, but very obsessed about it! Does that mean she had OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder?
Partially yes , and partially no. Apparently, just being a cleanliness freak is not the only symptom of OCD. There are several other tell-tale signs that confirm this anxiety disorder. It is way deeper than we think!
And to make you understand what OCD is all about, we had a chat with Dr Santosh Bangar, a senior consultant psychiatrist at Global Hospital, Mumbai. Let’s see what he has to say about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Usually, you see people using this term very frivolously, without even understanding what this disorder actually is. “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common type of anxiety disorder with unwanted, recurrent, and excessive thoughts/images/fears (obsessions) and urge to do something over and over again (compulsion),” he says.
Dr Bangar adds, “A person with OCD understands that the obsessive thoughts are unpleasant, irrational, but he/she is unable to stop or resist them. These compulsions are ritualistic, irrational, uncontrollable, and they feel compelled to perform it to get rid of their obsessions. A person with OCD may spend a lot of time on these things, which may slow down their daily functioning, affecting various aspects of their personal, social and professional life.”
A typical person with OCD develops the illness in their 20s. Unfortunately, both sexes are equally affected. The common theme of the obsession is usually contamination with germs, leading to repeated washing (washers), checking things repeatedly e.g. door or gas (checkers).
Common obsessive thoughts:
1. Fear of being contaminated by germs or dirt;
2. Fear of losing control and harming yourself or others;
3. Intrusive sexually explicit or violent thoughts and images;
4. Excessive focus on religious or moral ideas;
5. Symmetry: the idea that everything must line up “just right”;
6. Superstitions; excessive attention to something considered lucky or unlucky.
Common compulsive behaviour:
1. Excessive checking of things, such as doors, gas, and switches;
2. Repeatedly checking in on family members to make sure they’re safe;
3. Counting, tapping, repeating certain words, or doing other senseless things to reduce anxiety;
4. Repeated washing or cleaning;
5. Ordering or arranging things;
6. Praying excessively or engaging in rituals due to religious fear.
“Although, the exact cause is unknown, but a combination of alterations in the brain chemicals, structural and metabolic changes may be responsible. OCD can be familial as offspring of a person with OCD or their identical twins are at higher risk of developing the illness,” explains Dr Bangar.
The weird thing is that individuals with an obsessive compulsive (anankastic) personality are slightly more prone to the disease. And you’ll be shocked to know that even stress can initiate OCD. People who are dealing with depression or some other anxiety disorders may also develop OCD.
So here’s your mental health class on OCD. Watch out for these symptoms, and if you feel you have a few or them, or spot it in your close friends and family, then don’t hesitate to seek medical help!