It’s normal to go through periods of increased interest or behaviors. It is also normal to feel concerned when a loved one is sick or in unsafe conditions. Someone may describe their latest interest in a favorite film series or artist as an “obsession”. However, when pursuing obsessions and engaging in compulsive behavior comes at the expense of important activities – such as relationships, work, or everyday tasks – a person may be experiencing obsessive compulsive disorder.
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Understanding obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) requires knowing what obsessions and compulsions are from a clinical standpoint.
It is a common misconception that everyone has a “little OCD”. In the everyday sense, pursuing interests results in enjoyment and pleasure. However, in the context of OCD, “obsessions” are thoughts, images, or the impulse to take some action that occurs time and time again. It is a driving urge that causes uncomfortable feelings such as disgust, discomfort, and fear.
These obsessions are outside the control of the person experiencing them. Many individuals struggling with OCD even recognize that their thoughts are not logical or “real”. However, this alone is not enough to stop experiencing these feelings.
The other part of OCD is “compulsions”. These are behaviors that a person must repeat until they feel neutralized or go away. Even though acting on these compulsions only brings temporary relief, those suffering from OCD often do not possess better coping mechanisms without professional assistance.
Understanding which behaviors could be considered compulsions depends on the context of the behavior. For example, washing one’s hands is important to avoid sickness. But washing hands over and over until one’s hands are raw is an indication that a behavior is more than a good habit.
Combined, these obsessions and compulsions can make life feel impossible or unbearable.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of OCD?
OCD differs from normal interests, cares, and concerns in significant ways. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Mentally playing events over and over again in one’s head or constant praying to prevent harm, either to one’s self or others
- Repeatedly checking to see that no mistakes were made, or that that one did not harm one’s self or others
- Washing or cleaning excessively or in a certain way (such as washing hands, brushing teeth, or toilet routines)
- Fixating on avoiding any contaminants
- Rereading, rewriting, or repeating body movements (such as tapping, blinking, and touching)
- Repeating activities in multiples (such as turning a light on and off until the “right” number of times)
- Re-arranging objects until they “feel” they are in the proper place
- Structuring one’s life around avoiding obsession triggers
How We Can Help
At Aurora Behavioral Health, we treat a range of anxiety disorders including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) through inpatient programs and outpatient programs. Our experienced staff can provide the support needed to develop healthy coping behaviors. This can open the door to a healthy life not defined by obsessions or compulsions.
We know that each person suffering from OCD has different circumstances and needs. Each needs a personal path to recovery and enjoying life again. That is why we customize each patient’s treatment program to fit their symptoms, needs, and goals.