Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
As the name would suggest, individuals with OCD experience intrusive and uncontrollable obsessions and/or compulsions. While many individuals with OCD experience both obsessions and compulsions, this is not always the case. This is why it is important to understand the difference between the two.

As the name would suggest, individuals with OCD experience intrusive and uncontrollable obsessions and/or compulsions. While many individuals with OCD experience both obsessions and compulsions, this is not always the case. This is why it is important to understand the difference between the two.

Unfortunately, the term “obsessed” has become quite common in everyday conversations, referring to  a favourite tv series, food or activity for example. In this context, obsessions are considered a good thing - something they do not want to live without. This however is very different from the obsessions experienced by individuals with OCD, who live with unwanted and disturbing thoughts, images or urges continually popping into their mind causing distressing feelings and anxiety.

Compulsions are the behaviours or mental acts an individual will engage in, in an attempt to reduce the distress and anxiety caused by the obsessions.

Types of Obsessions:

There are numerous types of obsessions one may experience if they suffer from OCD. Often times, it is not just 1 type of obsession, but multiple.  Some common examples of obsessions include:

  • Contamination
    • Strong fear of germs
    • Ie. worry that they will get themselves or other sick by touching “dirty” items
  • Doubt
    • Constant fear that they’ve done something wrong
    • Ie. leaving stove on or door unlocked, not answering a question correctly or clearly
  • Accidental harm
    • Fear they will accidentally harm themselves or others through carelessness
    • Ie. worry they will allow a murderer into their home if they do not lock the door
  • “Purposeful” harm
    • Imagine themselves deliberately harming someone/something or violating their religious beliefs, all the while never actually wanting to act on them
    • Ie. swearing inside a place of worship, harming a baby or elderly person
    • *Remember these are UNWANTED obsessions - just because they pop into their mind, does not mean they are crazy or dangerous
  • Symmetry/precision
    • Must have things in a precise order or position
    • Ie. All clothes must be sorted by colour, must take even number of steps with each foot, food must be organized according to food group or alphabetically

Types of Compulsions:

The types of compulsions will depend on obsessions experienced by the individual. Some common compulsions include:

  • Cleaning
    • Not only do they need to clean frequently, but they often must do so following intricate rules or rituals
    • Ie. Must brush their teeth in a specific order for an exact amount of time, must wash their hands after touching anything they believe to be dirty, and must do so for an exact amount of time in a specific pattern
  • Checking
    • Must repeatedly check to make sure something is done correctly/safely or that everyone is safe
    • Ie. Constantly ensuring family members are safe, going over a paper they wrote countless times to check for spelling mistakes, repeatedly checking to make sure the door is locked or stove has been turned off
  • Ordering/Arranging
    • Must arrange items in a specific order/pattern, and will repeat a task until they believe it is done correctly
    • Ie. Must arrange the shoes exactly one way or someone will get hurt, must have all hangers in the closet face the same direction
  • Mental Acts
    • These compulsions relate to thoughts or statements
    • Ie. must repeat something in their head (or out loud)  a specific number of times, must say a prayer (sometimes multiple times) every time they have a disturbing thought

Please note that individuals suffering from OCD may not have the same symptoms their entire life. Sometimes new obsessions develop but the compulsions stay the same, other times the opposite is true, or they may develop new symptoms all together. Just like other forms of anxiety disorders, OCD manifests uniquely according to the individual struggling. One thing all OCD sufferers have in common however, is that they find their daily life is significantly affected by the disorder.  Not only are they time consuming, but the obsessions and compulsions create extreme levels of anxiety or nervousness.

Remember, these obsessions are unwanted. This point cannot be emphasized enough. Too often individuals with OCD are thought to be crazy or perhaps even dangerous. On average, this couldn’t be further from the truth. This is why it is so important to show OCD sufferers grace and support. Make them feel understood and cared for.


* Please note that NO information provided by Cam’s Kids Foundation is intended or implied to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content and information is for general information purposes only. Please speak to your health care practitioner regarding any questions you may have, or to confirm a diagnosis.

For more information:

https://www.anxietycanada.com/adults/obsessive-compulsive-disorder

https://childmind.org/topics/disorders/obsessive-compulsive-disorders/

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