OCD: What's in Control?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that is the fourth most common mental illness in the U.S. (8). OCD affects five million Americans, or one in five people (3). This is a serious mental disorder that causes people to think and act certain things repetitively in order to calm the anxiety produced by a certain fear. Unlike compulsive drinking or gambling, OCD compulsions do not give the person pleasure; rather, the rituals are performed to obtain relief from the discomfort caused by obsessions (2). OCD is more common than schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or panic disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (6). This disorder can be therapeutically treated, but not cured. The causes of OCD are not completely understood, and warrant further exploration of self-control and autonomy.
There are many branches or types of OCD. Within all branches, ninety percent of people suffer from both obsessions and compulsions, rather than solely one or the other (1). One category of OCD sufferers tend to check and recheck items from 10-100 times - such as a locked door. The overwhelming impulse to recheck remains until the person experiences a reduction in tension despite the realization that the item is secure (1). OCD sufferers also tend to habitually wash due to fear of contamination. Another form of OCD is hoarding, which is excessive saving of typically worthless items such as shoes or computer disks due to an overwhelming fear that one day these items might be of use. People who suffer from the ordering branch of OCD, feels compelled to place items in a designated spot or order to alleviate worries of disorder and mayhem. Pure-O sufferers are those people who grapple with unwanted and unethical thoughts. They tend to be superstitious and compulsively do problem solving in order to control their thoughts. OCD sufferers can also be subject to hyperscrupulosity, which involves extreme worry and anxiety for the safety of others. Another form of OCD is body dysmorphia. This is a condition where people become excessively focused on some body part which they perceive to be grossly malformed (1). Hypochondriacs -people who have an extreme fear of sickness - fall into this category of OCD. General behaviors that may indicate OCD are: excessive washing, repeating, checking, touching, counting, ordering/arranging, hoarding, or praying (2). OCD patients live in a vicious cycle. They have obsessions about certain things and cause anxiety. To relieve this anxiety, compulsions are performed, and then attention can be paid again to the obsessions that have not truly been alleviated. The difference between OCD sufferers and other people, is the OCD sufferers use up at least an hour of their day thinking or doing these incessant tasks and they interfere with the person's work, social life, and relationships (2).
If OCD is found in conjunction with another disorder, it is usually found with a ticking...