I have OCD – does that make me strange?

I have OCD – does that make me strange?

Although Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) may involve bizarre thoughts and behaviours, OCD is a common anxiety disorder that is treatable and manageable. It is not a testament to the type of person you are, merely a disorder that results in sometimes strange thoughts and behaviours that you are struggling with. Finding treatment and a psychologist to help you, will help you deal with this condition.

OCD is a disorder that is driven by anxiety. It entails unwanted and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that are followed by ritualistic and repetitive behaviours (compulsions), which you feel compelled to perform to ‘undo’ the thoughts. Most people struggling with OCD realise that the thoughts they are having may be bizarre or irrational and that the compulsive behaviours are not necessarily connected to the thoughts in any logical way. In this way the disorder may make you feel “strange”. Understanding the obsessions and compulsions a little better will allow you to get some perspective and, perhaps, feel a little more in control.

The obsessions in OCD are often unwanted, disturbing and distracting thoughts that cause quite a lot of distress. They seem uncontrollable and unpredictable and this adds to the distress caused by experiencing the thoughts. As the anxiety increases, the need to erase the thought is heightened. As a result, the person is compelled to complete a particular behaviour or ritual in order to ‘undo’ the thought or to make the obsessions go away. In some cases the person is compelled into a behaviour that, seemingly, makes sense such as to take a few steps backwards to a point at which they did not have the thought, or to spit out their food if experiencing an obsession while eating. In other cases the ritual may not be related to the obsession at all, like tapping fingers a set number of times in the belief that this ritual will ‘undo’ the thought or to repeat a specific phrase until the thought is eradicated. Either way the compulsions act as an ‘undoing’ of sorts for the thought, whether they are logically connected or not. Unfortunately the compulsive rituals or behaviours do not minimise the anxiety felt. Rather, they actually reinforce the power of the obsession by validating the anxiety connected to it.

Obsessions tend to fall into main categories such as fear of contamination, fear of catastrophe, thoughts of aggression and bodily harm, and sinful or “dirty” thoughts. In other words, some people with OCD may fear contamination from objects or people around them. They may have a fear of germs and, as such, repeatedly wash their hands and be afraid of touching objects or people. They may also be afraid of mental contamination. Still others are afraid that they have done something that may lead to catastrophe such as fearing that they have not locked the door properly, or turned the oven off. Others struggling with OCD may experience intrusive thoughts about harming themselves or other people around them, while others may experience thoughts that are perceived as sinful or “dirty” particularly from a religious perspective. Treatment usually consists of medication to alleviate the underlying anxiety and cognitive behavioural therapy to help the person gain more control over their thoughts and stop reinforcing the anxiety through the compulsions. If you are struggling with OCD you would benefit from seeking help from a psychologist.