Recognising Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Emily Clarke

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is something we have heard at least one person in our life joke about, claiming a messy shelf, for example, is ‘giving them OCD’. However, this is a medical condition that we shouldn’t throw around so lightly.

OCD is a chronic, long-lasting, condition in which people develop obsessions and compulsions.

According to the OCD Clinic, Ireland’s only clinic dedicated to OCD studies and treatments, studies show this condition affects between one and five per cent of the population. However, the clinic believes it actually affects 15 to 21 per cent of people.

The OCD Clinic defines the behaviour as an “overwhelming compulsion to perform behaviours or thoughts in a repetitive and ritualised manner with views of achieving a reduction in anxiety or fear, or to achieve some pleasurable feeling.”

There are four different types of rituals evident in those suffering with OCD.

Reparative rituals are those done to repair or fix something. Preventative rituals prevent something from happening. Pleasure Based rituals are done with the aim of achieving a specific sensation. Propitiatory rituals are carried out to ensure everything goes well.

The condition is diagnosed when such obsessions and compulsions can take up huge amounts of someone’s time as well as causing distress and interfere with their day-to-day life, such as work, college, family and relationships.

Different types of compulsions can include; counting, checking, hair pulling, ordering objects in a specific way, hoarding, washing, health checks and self-harm.

Those who form obsessions include but are not limited to; hoarding, health and illness, fear of contamination, irrational thoughts of harming others, symmetry and exactness.

Both of the above lists are not a complete lists as OCD can take many forms, including eating disorders, social anxiety, phobias and more.

The OCD clinic explain that “the attempt to seek reassurance in order to manage a fear or the irrepressible tendency to feel a specific sensation, structures a very rigid and persistent problem.”

OCD can stem from five “positions”, according to the clinic. When a person begins to doubt something, it can trigger a series of “protective rituals” that can either repair or prevent the fear or issue. For example, ‘I wore my blue tie to my job interview, so I have to wear this whenever I want to succeed again.’

Rigid beliefs, morality or superstitions, for example, insisting you pray for being unkind to someone, that “instead of helping, it invalidates our ability to act.”

Preventative health-based phobias occur when the person wants to prevent themselves or their family from becoming sick, which in turn becomes a phobia.

People who have experienced trauma use their compulsions or obsessions to sedate themselves from the trauma. In order to help someone with this type of OCD, they must first overcome their trauma.

OCD isn’t as plain and simple as joking about an unlevel shelf that you want to fix. As with other mental disorders, you should not be acting as if they are something that doesn’t truly affect real people.

If you feel as though you are suffering from OCD and want to reach out to someone, you can contact the OCD Clinic or your local GP.

Emily Clarke

Image Credit: Claire Young