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OCD: a habit or something else?

Obsessive compulsive disorder
Obsessive compulsive disorder

We all do a double-take – maybe a look or two to check to see if something is open or if we left the stove on, the door open – that is human nature. However, when repetition becomes habitual with the afterthought of doom, we may have a problem. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a set of behaviors associated with the frequent thoughts of doom. It affects over 2 million Americans and “to try to control them, a person will feel an overwhelming urge to repeat certain behaviors called compulsions, they then are unable to control these obsessions and compulsions that in turn control them. “For example, if people are obsessed with germs or dirt, they may develop a compulsion to wash their hands over and over again. If they develop an obsession with intruders, they may lock and relock their doors many times before going to bed. Being afraid of social embarrassment may prompt people with OCD to comb their hair compulsively in front of a mirror-sometimes they get “caught” in the mirror and can’t move away from it. Performing such rituals is not pleasurable. At best, it produces temporary relief from the anxiety created by obsessive thoughts.”

OCD has developed its own following. The media has exposed this disorder through reality shows and frequent jokes and pokes about those suffering from the disorder. Though no laughing matter, OCD is a serious mental disorder. No one really knows what causes OCD. However, some of the symptoms to look for are: having repeated thoughts or images about many different things, such as fear of germs, dirt, or intruders; acts of violence; hurting loved ones; sexual acts; conflicts with religious beliefs; or being overly tidy. Sufferers also do the same rituals over and over such as washing hands, locking and unlocking doors, counting, keeping unneeded items, or repeating the same steps again and again. They are unable to control the unwanted thoughts and behaviors and they don't get pleasure when performing the behaviors or rituals, but get brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts cause. Individuals also spend at least one hour a day on the thoughts and rituals, which cause distress and get in the way of daily life. .”

Obsessive compulsive behaviors are bad habits, behaviors and rituals that seem hard to break. Treatments for this disorder are psychotherapy, medication, and behavior modification. The same practices that developed this behavioral disorder can be counteracted with other positive behaviors with help. It is important that you watch closely your child, children or loved one who you feel are overly zealous in certain behavioral habits and/or rituals, ask questions, get educated, and don’t hesitate to seek advice from a healthcare professional.