Breaking the Habit: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Breaking the Habit: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

If you've ever caught an episode of the TV series Monk, you know about the strange behavior of Adrian Monk, the Defective Detective. The title character has obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD.

Without treatment, OCD is crippling and disabling. The average person with OCD suffers more than seven years before seeking help, often because he or she is embarrassed or unaware that this mental disorder can be treated.

Understanding OCD

People with OCD suffer from obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are anxiety-producing thoughts that repeat themselves over and over. Compulsions are behaviors that people with OCD perform repeatedly to get rid of the distressing obsessions.

The symptoms vary widely from person to person. OCD often starts when a person is a child or teenager, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Without treatment, OCD can last for a lifetime.

You may have the condition if any of the following are true and cause you distress:

Washing and cleaning

  • I avoid touching certain things because I fear they're contaminated.

  • I have difficulty picking up items that are on the floor.

  • I clean my house repetitively and excessively.

  • I wash my hands repetitively and excessively.

  • I'm overly concerned with germs and diseases.

Checking and repeating

  • I frequently need to check things over and over again.

  • I have difficulty finishing things because I need to repeat actions.

  • I worry excessively about making mistakes.

  • I worry excessively that someone will be harmed because of me.

Ordering

  • I must have certain things around me set in a specific order.

  • I spend a lot of time making sure things are in just the right place.

  • When others rearrange my things, I get extremely upset.

Hoarding

  • I have difficulty throwing things away.

  • I bring home seemingly useless materials.

  • Over the years, my home has become cluttered with things I have collected.

Thinking rituals

  • I have a need to repeat certain words or numbers in my head so I don't feel anxious or fear that some harm will befall others.

  • I need to remember events in detail or to make mental lists to prevent what I imagine will be unpleasant consequences.

Worries and pure obsessions

  • I often get upset by unpleasant thoughts that come into my mind repetitively against my will.

  • Frequently the things that pop into my mind are shameful, frightening or bizarre.

  • When I start to worry, I can't stop.

Treatment

Many people with OCD benefit from medications and behavioral therapy in which they're very gradually exposed to circumstances that trigger their compulsive behaviors.

If you have symptoms of OCD, seek treatment immediately. Once it's identified, it's highly treatable, and many people who receive the appropriate behavioral therapy are able to regain control of their lives.

 
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