‘’I washed my hands several times but I need to make sure they are clean. I need to wash my hands again.’’
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder made up of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are images or thoughts that give rise to anxiety or fear, mainly due to their intrusive manner. Compulsions are the need to perform and repeat a certain act to ease the anxiety.
Symptoms for obsessions include the need to have things in a certain order, aggressive behaviour towards self or others, fear of contamination and fear of germs, as well as taboo or unwanted thoughts regarding religion, sex and harm.
Common compulsions may consist of the excessive need to clean or wash one’s hands, always having a precise way of arranging things, repeated checking of things and compulsive counting.
‘’After finishing the day at work. Tom gets a thought that he made a mistake on one of the documents. He thus goes through all the documents he filled in on that day. Although he cannot seem to find any errors in his paperwork he spends 2 hours checking and rechecking his work.’’
This is case of OCD where a thought causes the individual to experience anxiety and the only way of reducing it is through ritualistic repetition through which their fear is reduced for the time being.
There is a need to distinguish between rituals and compulsions, it is normal to recheck things sometimes. However, people with OCD can’t control their thoughts and behaviours, of which they spend at least an hour a day thinking about. Due to these the individual might experience significant problems in their day to day life.
People who suffer from OCD sometimes also acquire a tic, be it motor or vocal. Vocal tics include repetitive sniffing, grunting sounds and throat clearing. Motor tics include sudden and repetitive eye blinking, head or shoulder jerking and facial grimacing.
Individuals who suffer from OCD can help themselves by avoiding situations that might cause their OCD to surface. It is important to seek out help when having OCD, if not treated it could cause interference in one’s life.
– Michaela Bonello is a Bachelor of Psychology (Hons.) student at the University of Malta. She is interested in the areas of relationship counselling and sex therapy. Michaela is an intern at Willingness.com.mt.