Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is clinically defined within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM- 5) as an anxiety disorder marked by the presence of obsessions and compulsions. This condition is EGODYSTONIC in that the individual realises that their thoughts and compulsive acts are irrational however they are unable to break the distressing cycle. For a formal diagnosis of OCD, the obsessions and compulsions must be experienced to such a degree that they cause significant distress and unhappiness and significantly interfere and impair normal daily living.
Researchers don’t know the exact cause of OCD however they believe that certain areas of the brain may not respond normally to serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical that nerve cells use to communicate with each other. Genetics are also thought to contribute to the onset and development of OCD. If one family member has OCD, there is a 25% chance that another family member will also have it. OCD is characterised as an anxiety disorder and it exists alongside of, and can be comorbid with, other conditions such as ADHD, Tourette’s, social anxiety, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and many more.
To understand this condition properly, it is important to understand its two broad symptoms and how these two broad symptoms manifest and interact with one another.
Recurrent, persistent, intrusive, and unwanted thoughts, feelings, sensations and/or images. The most common obsessions are those related to contamination (e.g., germs, illnesses etc), thoughts of violence towards self or others, blasphemy or excessive focus on morals or religious ideas, fear of loss of control, order and symmetry, and or excessive focus on superstitions and lucky charms.
Behaviours, acts or rituals aimed at eliminating the obsessions and alleviating the associated anxiety. Common compulsions include re-checking doors, locks and stoves, counting or tapping rituals, excessive hand/body washing, excessive time spent on cleaning, washing, arranging and ordering, excessive praying, or any other act designed to ward of intrusive thoughts and anxiety.
If you have been diagnosed with OCD, or you strongly believe that you are experiencing the symptoms of OCD, the best way to manage your symptoms is day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month and year-to-year. By learning healthy and adaptive coping strategies and engaging in proper treatment, many people with OCD can lead normal, productive and fulfilling lives. With this in mind, OCD is often triggered and exacerbated by stress so it is of upmost importance that you manage your stress effectively if you want any realistic chance of also managing your OCD.