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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

6 Mins read

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be a very serious mental health condition that gets in the way of daily functioning. Just imagine retiring to your room after a long day. Suddenly, you realize you may have forgotten to lock your front door. This makes you feel anxious, so you get up to check if the door is indeed locked. Most people could then relax and get a good night’s sleep since they’ve re-checked the lock. In fact, this typical anxiety of double-checking a door is locked is normal because it means you’re cautious about your environment, and you stay alert against potential dangers. 

However, a person with OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder might check the lock, return to bed and continually fret over the door. If you have OCD, you may find yourself unable to sleep because intrusive thoughts about something of this nature continue to recur in your mind. You may have to get up several times to keep on re-checking if the door is locked. 

These recurring thoughts, which result in unbearable anxiety, become exhausting. People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder have recurring obsessive thoughts like these which wear on them over time and impact their daily functioning. When these obsessions become severe and affect your daily life, you certainly have cause for concern. The World Health Organization has placed OCD in the top ten list of the most mentally handicapping disorders of humans. Thus, it is essential to seek medical intervention to ascertain that your mental, emotional, and physical health will not continue to suffer untreated. Learn more about OCD below:  

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is marked by a pattern of intrusive or obsessive thoughts, unwanted fears, and involuntary obsessions. These thoughts or obsessions are often very irrational. As a result of these obsessive thoughts, you feel compelled (here comes the compulsion) to do repetitive and rigid behaviors. These behaviors driven by obsessive thoughts are known as compulsions, and sometimes these acts alleviate the sufferer’s fears or anxiety. 

If you suffer from OCD, even if you know your anxiety is unwarranted, you cannot disengage from obsessive thoughts or compulsive actions. Unfortunately, these obsessions and compulsions can disrupt your life and lead to anxiety, depression, and emotional distress, especially in severe cases. 

You may attempt to ignore or put a stop to these obsessions. But, unfortunately, doing so only increases your anxiety. Hence, you repetitively perform compulsive and compensatory acts as they provide temporary relief to your discomfort. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try to get rid of these annoying urges and bothersome thoughts, they just keep on coming back (like obsessions). When these cyclical occurrences of obsessions and compulsions disrupt your daily life, you may have OCD. 

Many people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder respond to their symptoms with habitual compulsions that somehow become ritualistic behavior. OCD usually involves specific themes. For example, some people with OCD are concerned about cleanliness and fear getting germs on their hands. To ease their anxiety, they compulsively wash their hands to the point of having red and sore hands. If you identify with these feelings, fears, and behaviors, you may feel embarrassed because you cannot control your compulsions. However, failing to address the problem will result in more anxiety. Therefore, it is vital to seek medical help because treatment for OCD can be effective.

Signs and Symptoms of OCD

If you have severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you will have both obsessions and compulsions. However, some people can have the “obsession” symptoms only, without the compulsion symptoms. If you are suffering from this disorder, you may be aware of your issues, or you may not realize you have unreasonable and excessive thoughts or actions. However, no matter what symptoms you have, one thing is sure: they take up a great deal of your energy, eventually affecting your daily routine and functions. Watch out for these symptoms of OCD:

Obsession Symptoms

Obsessions center on recurrent, persistent and intrusive thoughts. You may get images and impulses that trigger distressing emotions. For example, these impulses may trigger severe disgust, distress, and anxiety. Some OCD patients realize that these thoughts are illogical, but their pain and mental anguish cannot be resolved even with proper logic. Most people with obsessive symptoms try to ease their anxiety with compensatory acts. These compulsions are almost like a ritual. They attempt to suppress the obsessions by distracting themselves with other things. Signs of these obsessions include:

  • Being very fearful of getting contaminated by germs or dirt from people or the environment
  • Having disturbing sexual images and thoughts running in your head
  • Feeling afraid of suddenly hurling obscenities or blurting out insults
  • Finding it agitating when there’s no order, precision, and symmetry in their environment
  • Having recurrent and intrusive thoughts focusing on numbers, sounds, words, or images
  • Feeling deathly afraid of losing something very important
  • Having immense difficulty in tolerating uncertainty
  • Dealing with intrusive thoughts about losing your self-control

Compulsion Symptoms

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels driven to perform to alleviate distress over an obsession. They’ll feel compelled to perform these acts to prevent something terrible from happening. Compulsions are usually excessive responses, with the constant repetition becoming a ritual. 

Most of the time, engaging in compulsions brings no true feeling of lasting relief. Sufferers make them up to help control their obsessive thoughts. However, these compulsions only provide temporary relief for their anxiety. They often go overboard, although performing these compulsions over and over again often doesn’t solve the obsessive problem in your head. Typical compulsions symptoms include:

  • Excessive hand washing, bathing, brushing teeth, etc. to the point that you’re body becomes sore
  • Repeated cleaning of certain on items in the house
  • Constant checking and rechecking of things like if the front door is locked, the oven is off, the fridge door is closed, or the stove is off
  • Extreme organizing or ordering of belongings, or arranging them in a very rigid and specific way
  • Repeated counting up to a specific number, and doing it all over again
  • Following a very rigid routine that brings extreme breakdown when broken
  • Constantly seeking reassurance from others, and needing constant approval
  • Silently repeating a particular phrase to yourslto bring comfort
  • Hoarding things because you feel unsafe letting them go
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When to See a Doctor for Treatment

OCD typically starts in the adolescent years, but there are some cases where it also manifests in childhood. Signs and symptoms begin gradually. Throughout your life, they will tend to vary. At times, the obsessions and compulsions will also change, depending on your life stage and environment.  

In general, symptoms tend to worsen when you feel stressed out. OCD is a lifelong disorder usually with mild to moderate symptoms. Sadly, severe symptoms can consume time and affect your quality of life. It can be disabling, too, so it is vital to seek medical intervention when your disorder impedes normal life functions. 

Having OCD means you worry excessively about things that may be unrealistic and illogical. This is entirely different from a perfectionist who wants a flawless performance. If you’re driven to the point of mania by your obsessions and compulsions, treatment from a reputable mental health professional is necessary. Treatments vary based on the severity of the condition ranging from oral medications to therapies. For example, CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy is effective for mild cases. In the more severe ones, your doctor may give you prescribed medication like antidepressants. 

Risk Factors for Developing OCD

Various individuals with OCD may acquire the disorder based on different triggers. Some known risk factors of OCD are the following:

  • Genetics plays a role because it can be inherited from a parent.
  • It can be due to biological or neurological factors because of a chemical imbalance in the brain. 
  • Significant life changes can trigger it, like moving to a new place, giving birth, or a new job. 
  • Those who are incredibly meticulous at a young age run the risk of developing OCD.
  • Severe trauma can result in OCD, like getting sick because of an environmental concern leading to a hand-washing compulsion. 

If you experience any of the OCD symptoms above or notice it in a family member, it is vital to speak with a mental health professional and get into therapy. If you’ve noticed OCD traits in a friend or family member, you may feel frustrated being around this person. It will help to remember that they don’t want to be a burden, and they’re trying to cope with their anxiety using compulsions. 

Patience is necessary when dealing with any form of health problem. The first step is finding professional help – someone who specializes in mental health disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. If you feel concerned, schedule an appointment with your doctor. 

It would also help to take a DNA test from CircleDNA to determine your genetic risk factors for developing this disorder and other similar conditions.

Hannah Wabe
106 posts

About author
Hannah Victoria Wabe has an MA in Development Communication, which shows how just much she loves and believes in the power of words. She works part-time as a writer and educator but works full-time as a mother of three kids, ranging from 8 to 18. Though she’s not a big fan of math, she believes in counting blessings and imbibes an attitude of gratitude.
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