You enjoy neatness and regular routines. Your life is built around organization and regular schedules, sometimes to the point. Others say they’re worried about you. Maybe you’re just a perfectionist with specific personality quirks. Or perhaps you’re exhibiting habits that match the criteria of a condition known as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
What is OCD?
“Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). The repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, checking on things or cleaning, can significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions.”
Many people have classic OCD symptoms, but they don’t inhibit daily life. But for someone with OCD, the symptoms are constant, resulting in extreme distress.
Is OCD Contagious?
According to some experts, the answer to whether or not OCD is contagious is more nuanced than simply “no.” You can’t alter the truth that you suffer from OCD, and it’s not infectious – so no one you know can “catch it.” OCD doesn’t happen because of your childhood, nor is it triggered by job difficulties or other stressful life events (even though stress events can worsen OCD).
What Causes OCD?
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health says that the causes of OCD are unknown, but many factors are linked with a higher chance of getting the disorder.
Genetic markers and OCD are closely associated. Research shows that having a blood relative (parent, sibling, or child) with OCD is associated with a higher chance of getting it. We haven’t identified any gene that definitively results in OCD, but studies between human genetics and OCD continue.
Coping With OCD
Not everyone wishes to manage OCD symptoms through medicine, therapy, or other kinds of treatment. Many people who suspect they have obsessive-compulsive disorder try and address the symptoms by:
- Creating a reliable sleep schedule. Research has shown that lack of sleep may worsen OCD symptoms.
- Making regular exercise, like simple aerobics, a part of their care routine.
- Enjoying a healthy, sensible diet with nuts, seeds, and protein.
- Soliciting support from friends and family members.
When people talk about “OCD habits,” they’re most likely referring to compulsion symptoms or repetitious behaviors you have a strong urge to perform and finish. Along with obsessions, they form the backbone of the condition.
These repetitive performances or mental actions are, in theory, designed to lower anxiety linked to your obsessions or keep something bad from occurring. However, going through with the compulsions offers zero pleasure and may only bring short-term respite from anxiety.
People with OCD habits are known to concoct rules or rituals that help manage their anxiety when they’re busy with obsessive thoughts. Such compulsions are disproportionate and often not truly related to the issue they’re designed to fix.
Like obsessions, compulsions also encompass themes, such as:
- Washing and cleansing
- Adhering to a strict routine
- Demanding encouragement
What do the Signs and Compulsion Symptoms Look Like?
- You wash your hands until the skin becomes raw
- You check doors constantly to ensure they’re secured
- You check the stove over and over to ensure it’s shut off
- You count in specific patterns
- You quietly repeat a phrase, prayer, or word
- You make certain your canned goods are arranged the same way
OCD is sometimes hard to diagnose because it has many related conditions, each with symptoms that sometimes mimic its habits and obsessions. These include body dysmorphic disorder, hoarding disorder, hair-pulling disorder, and skin-picking disorder. Many OCD symptoms can be treated, but only after clinical diagnosis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
According to the International OCD Foundation, only “trained therapists can diagnose OCD. Therapists will look for three things:”
- Your obsessions
- Your compulsive behaviors
- Whether the obsessions and compulsions require a lot of time and interfere with important activities you value or hold dear, like steady employment, attending school, or quality time with friends
At some point, your doctor or mental healthcare provider will compare your symptoms with criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition before making a diagnosis. After diagnosis, you may be referred to different treatments, like psychotherapy, self-help, medicine, or ketamine infusion.
OCD habits, even at their worst, aren’t beyond your power of control. With effort and care, you can learn to control the compulsions which occupy more time than is healthy. Contact us today to learn more.