People with obsessessive compulsive disorder (OCD) suffer from obsessions and compulsions they can not control. They have persistent thoughts and urges to repeat certain mental and physical acts over and over. They are driven to prevent potential threats or failures. They have an excessive need to ensure safety, quality and preparedness. Their acts are aimed at alleviating fear, worry, stress and anxiety.

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OCD imperfections

Perfectionism is often a component of OCD. This includes impulses to be overly-competitive by doing more than others when it is unnecessary and wasteful, refining work by endlessly editing, redoing or retouching it when it is not a priority, straightening items on walls and desks, rearranging items over and over to achieve perfect symmetry, constantly polishing or cleaning items within reach, adding superfluous information to instructions, and so on.

OCD exceptions

Some repetitive activities, such as maintaining reasonable levels of neatness and inquisitiveness, are not symptoms of OCD, as they are positive daily life routines. Work in which precision, craftsmanship or quality is a highly valued or priority requirement is also excluded. Preoccupations with minor intrusions, such as mentally recycled songs or reminders about important meetings, are not obsessions, as they do not decrease productivity or affect normal functioning.

OCD evasions

Persons with OCD may avoid talking about it, as they may be embarrassed, due to previous or ongoing mockery of their actions by others, or they may find it difficult to understand or explain. OCD often lasts for years before a person asks for help. They usually suffer from a range of comorbid symptomatologies and related mood disorders. They run the risk of substance abuse and suicide.

The paradoxes of OCD

Obsessive compulsive disorder unleashes intrusive thoughts that trigger anxiety and urge the sufferer to perform certain acts to prevent potential harm. To neutralise the anxiety, the compulsive act must be performed without delay. It includes checking and rechecking a variety of items, like stoves and locks, and many other actions.

OCD victims also follow rituals like constantly cleaning clothes and objects. They may wash their hands several times a day. They provide for emergencies by stockpiling reserves. They often hoard broken items. They constantly rearrange objects and spontaneously count any items within sight.

Paradoxically, the uncontrollable actions of OCD victims stem from an urgent need to control their anxiety. They know that their actions are unnecessary, but efforts to obstruct them can cause an explosive rise in anxiety, anger and aggression.

Another paradox is that OCD victims interrupt themselves to fulfill compulsions, but they struggle to tolerate other interruptions while they are working, or to shift focus to another task before finishing the current task.

OCD sufferers often procrastinate due to fear that the obsessions will be activated when they start working. They may avoid urgent work, as they anticipate the interruptions will cause even greater anxiety. They are often late for appointments, because of all the precautionary rituals before they leave.

OCD can waste so much time that the person risks losing employment or income. The condition can cause codependency and ruin relationships. Lasting through a normal day can be so stressful and exhausting that sufferers may turn to isolation or escapism.

OCD sufferers usually prefer private spaces, separated from other people and distractions. They function better in an ordered, structured and predictable environment where they feel in control.

OCD originates from several possible roots. It may be a problem with neural pathways or chemical imbalances in the brain. It can also be a genetic inheritance. Traumatic events can trigger or worsen the symptoms.

Call us for help with OCD

OCD can be shrouded by comorbidities. Correct diagnosis is important for effective treatment. Most medications for OCD have unpleasant side effects and can cause degraded performance. The most effective treatment for OCD is personalised psychotherapy and partner or family education.

Simply dialing the number on this page for friendly advice from a counselor with intimate knowledge and understanding of the problem, can avert tragedy, and may even save a life.

Media publications about mental and physical health are for broad public consumption and it is imperative that you obtain personal advice for your specific circumstances from a suitably qualified professional.