O – Obsessions

It is nice to have a clean and tidy house. It is easier to find things, there are less cockroaches, your mother approves, and it reduces the workload when preparing for snooty guests and epic parties.

It is also important to wash your hands and be hygienic. It isn’t nice to shake hands with people and give them your poo germs. It isn’t ideal to spread your boogers and cough remnants to the public, even if some particularly rude people deserve it. It isn’t good if the food you eat and serve to others has elements of raw mystery meat after making sausages.

What’s not good is spending so much time cleaning and tidying up that you miss social events or are late to work. What’s not good is washing your hands so frequently that not only do you use up all the expensive soap you got for Christmas from your aunty, but you also rub your hands so raw that they bleed and are painfully dry and cracked.

And yet you can’t stop these behaviours, because you are so terrified that if you don’t engage in them, something unspeakably awful will happen, something so dreadful you don’t even want to consider it.

I don’t want to preach, but there isn’t enough awareness about the truth of this disorder. All too often OCD is linked to words such as “quirky, individual, weird, cleanliness,” instead of words such as “emotional distress, incapacitating, fear, terror.” The near-constant preoccupation and worry felt by a sufferer are diminished and invalidated by offhand comments about things being in order and double checking.

People seem to forget or don’t realise that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (i.e OCD) is, well, a disorder. Which is, boringly yet accurately put, “an illness that disrupts normal physical or mental functions.” OCD is not being simply upset or annoyed at, say, uneven eyebrows, the TV volume on a particular number, when the pencils aren’t in order of colour, someone taking too long to reply to a message, the non-uniformity of decorations or ornaments. In reality, it is having intrusive, unwanted, repetitive and often highly distressing thoughts that take over your entire head-space. It can cause panic attacks, depression, extreme anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. The preoccupation with the thoughts and the distracting urges to act (or not act) on them also result in lower concentration and difficulties at school or work.

OCD can manifest in a variety of compulsive behaviours, for instance constant checking, constant counting; and also exercising, calorie counting, body checking (the latter group are sort of bonus features of the horror movie box case set ‘Eating Disorder.’) They are either a form of solution seeking “if I do ABC, then XYZ will/won’t happen” or a result of seeking relief from the thoughts and urges.

OCD can also be just in the mind, and may not result in visible behaviours. Instead, over 3/4 of waking hours can be spent ruminating and worrying, thanks to aggressively repetitive thoughts. These obsessional thoughts not only feel real and tangible, but also, rather inconveniently, are often strong fears of acting violently or creepily. They may include doing sexual stuff that would put 50 Shades of Grey fanfiction to shame, killing or badly hurting loved ones, or harming animals and children. (The difference between these OCD thoughts and Hollywood level insanity is that the thoughts are near constant and accompanied by anxiety and distress.)

The above type of thoughts are called ‘Pure-O.’ (but please don’t get them mixed up with the type of ‘O’ that Cosmopolitan will talk about!) While they are just thoughts, their constant presence means the sufferer will worry that they will actually act on them, and so will attempt to avoid situations in which they could happen, or try to figure out ways to stop themselves from doing whatever it is that the thoughts are saying will happen. Unfortunately, it is hard to out-logic any type of OCD. Plus, the thoughts seem so absurd, abhorrent and taboo it takes a lot of bravery and trust to open up about them.

Just like many disorders, OCD can be treated with medication, professional counselling, and support. Yay! Unfortunately, recovery does take a lot of effort, time, dedication, and many moments of feeling helpless and afraid… Then again, OCD tends to take up lots of time and make you feel helpless and fearful anyway, so you may as well seek treatment. After all, these thoughts, as frightening as they are, cannot hurt you unless you choose to act on them.

I don’t normally do this but I honestly don’t think there is enough out there on OCD so below are a couple of links with information if you want to find out what it’s like to have it, understand a loved one who is going through it, or understand your own disorder more clearly.

Living with intrusive thoughts

Obsessive morbid thoughts

Sciency stuff about OCD

Psychological stuff about OCD

Take care everyone.  :o)

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P.S I know I normally post Thursdays but I forgot. So here it is, on a Friday. How spontaneous and exciting.