A woman describes that she has an intense fear of germs. She constantly gets random thoughts about developing an illness or disease by touching things around her. As a result, she washes her hands repeatedly because it reduces the anxiety that she feels about her fear. After a while, her fear comes back and she starts her ritual of washing her hands repeatedly again. This person is most likely affected by OCD. Obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD, is an anxiety disorder characterized by unwanted and uncontrollable thoughts (obsessions) and/or repeating certain behaviors over and over again (compulsions) (Baldridge). OCD affects both men and women equally and it affects about two percent of the population (Britannica.com). Living with OCD is challenging and it affects the life of the person who is suffering, their family, and even their friends.
The exact cause of OCD is not known, but there are certain factors that contribute to developing the symptoms of the disorder such as genetics, cognitive, biological, and environmental factors (Merril). There are two diagnostic symptoms of OCD: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are images or ideas that uncontrollably run through a person’s head that a person may find annoying because it is difficult to shake off (nimh.org). Some examples of obsessions that a person may experience are excessive fear of germs or contamination, constant checking and rechecking, unwanted sexual thoughts or feelings, and concern about symmetry and order (nimh.gov). In order to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, sufferers perform certain behaviors repeatedly. These repetitive actions are called compulsions (familydoctor.org). Doing certain things temporarily gets rid of their distress about their obsessions. But, when the thoughts come back, they repeat their rituals all over again . People with OCD feel that they must perform these rituals because failure to do so may cause harm to oneself or family members. Some examples of compulsions are repeatedly washing hands, brushing teeth, checking door locks, arranging items in a certain way, and counting to a certain number (ocduk.org). People who suffer from OCD are usually aware of their actions and they know that their behaviors are unreasonable. They don’t enjoy doing these rituals, but ignoring their obsessions and compulsions will just lead to an even greater anxiety.
OCD impacts the lives of the sufferers in different ways. Symptoms for OCD are different for each individual. Some people have obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors involving fear of germs and repeated washing while in other cases, people check everything such as checking to see if the doors are locked. An OCD sufferer, Wendy, shares her story about some of her challenging experiences living with OCD. She states:
I was terrified of hurting others. If I drove over a bump in the road I would believe I had run over someone. I had to drive back and check the road over again, then drive back again, and...