What is OCD?
OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is a common disorder with a lifetime prevalence of 2-3% in the general population. It occurs in children, adolescents and adults, and both men and women are equally likely to get it. It is a chronic disorder characterized by obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions are thoughts, images, or impulses that occur over and over again and are beyond one’s control. Moreover, these thoughts and images can be disturbing, repulsive, silly or senseless. In response to these obsessions, many sufferers develop compulsions, i.e. repetitive behaviors or thoughts that neutralize or make the obsessions go away. Compulsions cannot totally relieve the obsessions long-term and hence the repetitive nature of compulsions makes them time-consuming.
Also OCD sufferers recognize that their thoughts and actions are irrational and excessive and become distressed by this realization.
What are some examples of OCD?
The content of OCD is highly variable. Here are some of the more common examples. In sufferers with obsessive fear of contamination (by germs, dirt etc), they have compulsive cleaning. The cleaning may be in the form of excessively frequent hand washing, bathing or cleaning of items, sometimes employing copious use of soap and other cleaning agents and in fixed patterns of accomplishing the acts (known as “rituals”).
Why Is OCD Problematic For The Sufferer?
Because the OCD sufferer spends an excessive amount of time cleaning and checking, he or she may not have enough time for important daily tasks. There will be problems with being late for appointments and being unable to hand in assignments on time. The compulsions also affect other family members and friends and the relationship with others becomes strained. Some family members are even “recruited” into the cleaning and checking rituals. Many OCD sufferers and their loved ones are stressed and exhausted by these obsessions and compulsions. Some OCD symptoms can be bizarre in their content and sufferers fear that they might be going mad. Many also become depressed, are unable to sleep and some even entertain suicidal thoughts.
How Do I Know If I Need Assessment And Treatment?
If you have the above symptoms and they are causing distress and affecting your life, it is time to consult a doctor. Many people suffer needlessly from these symptoms, which is unfortunate because OCD can be treated. Sometimes OCD symptoms can be bizarre and may be confused with other mental disorders such as psychosis, and a detailed assessment by a psychiatrist can help to distinguish between them as it has an impact on treatment. Besides eliciting OCD symptoms, the doctor will check if you are depressed because many OCD sufferers are also suffering from depression. Physical investigations such as blood tests and brain scans may or may not be required. After the diagnosis is made, the psychiatrist decides on the treatment for you.
How Is OCD Treated?
This is achieved using pharmacologic (medical) and/or non-pharmacologic approaches.
Cognitive behaviorial therapy (CBT) is useful for treatment of OCD. It may be used alone (for mild cases of OCD) or in combination with medicines.
The specific technique employed in treatment of OCD is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).