What is OCD?
What are obsessions?
What obsessions are not
What are compulsions?
What compulsions are not
Types of obsessions and compulsions in OCD
- Contamination is among the commonest of obsessions. There is a fear of dirt, germs, waste, toxins or body secretions. A person is afraid of getting an illness or spreading it. Sometimes he/she may just have feeling of “not being clean”. Touching an “unclean” object or even being near it may cause extreme anxiety. This is only eased by repeated washing and cleaning. Often the washing has to be done in a particular way or be repeated many times before he/ she feels clean again. The person also goes through great trouble to avoid or prevent contact with the contaminants. In time, they may become house-bound and force family members to also follow these cleaning rituals.
- Pathological doubt
- A person worries all the time that he will cause some harm to himself, his family or others due to his own carelessness. ‘Did I lock the door?’; ‘Did I switch off the lights?’; ‘Is the gas turned off?’ This constant questioning, doubt and responsibility leads to a compulsion to check and recheck. He may need to check the gas switch and the locks so many times that he gets late for work or is unable to sleep at night. Though he knows that the task is complete, his compulsive, repetitive behaviour continues.
- Perfectionism and need for symmetry
- A person has a need to do or arrange things “perfectly”. Items on his desk have to be placed in a certain way; or his shoes may need to be stacked in an exact order. He may need to perform certain actions or behaviours a certain number of times or in a precise order to have a sense of ‘completeness’. A child with OCD may worry that his homework is ‘not quite right’ and spend hours checking, erasing and re-doing his work because his T’s are not crossed properly. A person at work may feel that the day will go badly for him if he does not take a certain number of steps (say in multiples of seven) to his desk.
- Concern about illness and disease
- A person may have an irrational fear of developing a serious or incurable illness-usually HIV, heart disease or cancer. He may consult doctors and visit hospitals repeatedly. Despite normal medical reports and reassurance he will get investigations done again and again.
- Distressing sexual thoughts and images
- 'Sinful' religious images are other common obsessions. This specially occurs near religious places or during religious rites and rituals. He may feel intense guilt and avoid such places or services in the future.
OCD medication may be required when symptoms are moderate or severe. Medication for obsessive compulsive disorder is usually combined with CBT. The outcome of therapy also depends on family support; and the patient’s own insight, motivation and readiness for change.