Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessions and compulsions are anxiety types that centre around particular repetitive thoughts and behaviours. Obsessions are recurring thoughts, worries or even images that become difficult to battle. These are often unpleasant in nature with potentially devastating assumptions about consequences and are irrational at times.

To reduce the discomfort they cause, a person gets urge to repeat behaviours called compulsions. A person can undergo significant distress if they try to control these.

It has been found that there are many psychosocial factors that can trigger this obsessive compulsive behaviour. These factors can be sustained stress, grief from separation or loss of a loved one, traumatic experiences, etc.

Although the obsessive thoughts can be random, experts in mental health field have found them to be focused around few areas such as follows:

  • Contamination
  • Symmetry and order
  • Unpleasant and/or harmful thoughts
  • Uncertainty
  • Sexual or religious thoughts

Common red flags

Certain behaviors and anxieties manifested in everyday life that one should identify to seek help include:

  • Intrusive thoughts about unpleasant events occurring. In order to reduce associated anxiety and prepare for any uncertainty, one may find oneself keep checking if the doors are locked, alarm systems are properly functioning, stove and other appliances are switched off etc to the level that it starts hindering other tasks.
  • Violent, aggressive and harmful thoughts that cannot be controlled. One may constantly be afraid and anxious about ensuring that they are not inadvertently put in action.
  • Excessive fear of contamination and consequent illness. This may manifest as aggressive washing of hands or excessive sanitation of environment.
  • Constant need or urge to set everything in symmetry. Slightest misalignment creates much discomfort. This need is manifested by behavior such as constantly arranging things, or also counting everything such as steps, people, trees, vehicles, etc in certain patterns.
  • Intrusive and socially unacceptable sexual images or thoughts, which may cause one to feel under tension of not accidentally blurting out or acting upon.
  • Constantly chanting a prayer or God’s name as coping mechanism for uncertainty or to avoid perceived wrath of the God.

When do I need help?

Obsessions and compulsions are a problem only when certain thoughts and behaviours become disturbing or uncontrollable.

These also cause anxiety when an individual tries to stop or avoid them. One should seek help when everyday battle against unwanted thoughts and behaviors makes completion of normal tasks difficult or when they take up much

Obsessive compulsive behaviour can be controlled with confidential, non-judgmental and evidence-based help offered by mental health professionals.

What kind of help do I seek?

Obsessive Compulsive anxieties can be helped with medication, psychotherapy or combination of both.

Exposure therapy, a form of Cognitive Behavior therapy (CBT) and Acceptance Commitment therapy (ACT) are found to be the most efficient approaches for Obsessive Compulsive anxieties.

The basic aim of all of these is to modify irrational thoughts and reduce or replace the consequent compulsions with healthy behavior patterns.

How therapy will help in this situation?

Therapy provides a non-judgmental space in which one can express their unpleasant or disturbing obsessive thoughts. There is no such thing as a taboo topic.

Therapy can help uncover the underlying cause, issues or triggers of obsessive compulsive thoughts and behaviours.

Different therapies offer different benefits. For example:

  • Psychoanalytic forms of therapy help in dealing with obsessions.
  • Exposure therapy gradually makes individuals face least to most anxiety provoking thoughts without indulging into compulsive behavior. This helps to reduce the anxiety caused by such thoughts and compulsions.
  • Acceptance Commitment Therapy helps one to accept obsessive thoughts as something that is not a part of their identity. It also allows gradual replacement of the compulsions with healthy behavioural responses to obsessions.