Five Things You Didn’t Know About Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Over the past few years, mental health awareness has grown immensely. We can now talk openly about a problem that was once ignored or even taboo and simultaneously work to find a solution. Although late, this awareness is very much appreciated. People suffering from mental health disorders have had to hide their conditions for too long and have continued to suffer immensely. However, although awareness is on the rise, there is still a long way to go. One of the biggest factors that need focus is mental health issues beyond depression and anxiety. Several subcategories of mental health disorders affect many people but are still misunderstood and unrecognized. OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder is one such mental health issue that affects a huge number of people globally. However, owing to the uniqueness of the symptoms, it is often a condition that is misunderstood. If you’re looking to understand this condition better, keep reading below for the five things people don’t know about OCD.
OCD is a common condition
When it comes to mental health disorders, depression, mood disorders, and anxiety often take much of the limelight. While it’s true that these are the disorders that we see most commonly, they aren’t the only form of mental health issues people can face. OCD is a surprisingly common mental health issue that affects a huge number of people globally.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has several symptoms which overlap with anxiety and can thus be considered a subdivision of anxiety disorders. There are several ways it can manifest, and its severity can differ from person to person. Although many believe that OCD is a rare condition, OCD statistics indicate that 2.2 million people suffer from it in the United States alone. Understanding the widespread nature of this disorder is essential because it can help us differentiate it from other anxiety disorders. When we do that, we can provide specialized care to people struggling with this disorder.
OCD isn’t just about cleanliness
When we say OCD, the most common thing people think of is an obsession with cleanliness. Popularized by shows such as FRIENDS, this assumption is harmful because it suggests that wanting order or cleanliness is the primary symptom of OCD. Many people can thus start overgeneralizing the symptoms and assume they have OCD if they prefer cleanliness.
It can be detrimental to actual OCD patients because it can reduce the severity of their symptoms and make their disorder feel like a generalized trope. In reality, OCD is an umbrella of various symptoms, which can be mild to debilitating. Excessive cleanliness can be one of the compulsions that patients can experience, and if extreme, can even interfere with their day-to-day tasks. So, if you prefer cleanliness, it doesn’t mean you have OCD – it could just be a personality trait.
OCD has two subcategories
As the name suggests, OCD is about two subcategories – obsessions and compulsions. The thought-based component of OCD, known as obsessions, is characterized by persistent, obsessive thoughts. These obsessions can be extremely stressful for people and even interfere with their daily life. Anything can bring them on, including unwanted feelings, ideas, or images.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that an individual engages in to reduce the intensity of the obsessions or cope with distress. For instance, someone with OCD may have obsessive thoughts about their family being harmed if they don’t recheck the locks on the door a set number of times. It can trigger repeated checking behaviors and rituals that they believe will prevent harm. Obsessions and compulsions combined can make it incredibly challenging for someone to carry on with their life. People with OCD believe that if they don’t comply with these obsessions and compulsions, they may suffer catastrophic consequences, which can be super stressful.
OCD is caused by nature and nurture
Regarding etiology, OCD can be attributed to both nature and nurture. While nature refers to a person’s innate biology, nurture refers to their sociological and psychological conditioning. Some disorders have biological or sociological causes, but OCD often has both. Some individuals may be predisposed to developing OCD if they have a family member who has it. Changes in the orbitofrontal cortex are commonly attributed to OCD tendencies.
In nurture, a person may develop OCD if caretakers exhibit many anxious or neurotic behaviors. A neurotic personality may lead one to engage in checking behaviors, experience persistent fear, and other symptoms exacerbate OCD. If a parent reinforces such behaviors in the child, that child may later go on to develop OCD. Extra stress or traumatic life events can also trigger OCD in some children. More commonly, it is a complex interplay of genetic and environmental causes leading to the development of OCD. Understanding both causes is thus vital when devising a treatment plan.
OCD can be comorbid with other mental disorders
Like many other mental health disorders, OCD can be comorbid with many other issues. Comorbidity means when two separate mental health issues are diagnosable at the same time. In some cases, the comorbid disorder can be unrelated to the OCD diagnosis. However, the comorbid disorder occurs more commonly because of the OCD symptoms.
The stress and anxiety that OCD patients experience can lead to patients developing other anxiety or mood disorders. Over two-thirds of patients with OCD also experience at least one episode of major depressive disorder in their life. The persistent unwanted thoughts, repetitive behaviors, and fears of death can trigger depressive symptoms easily. Additionally, much of the neurological disruption, through changes in serotonin reuptake and more, can cause other mental issues.
OCD can be debilitating if left unchecked and cause immense mental distress. The symptoms are often challenging for people to cope with, and it can be hard for them to talk about their obsessions and compulsions. Greater awareness can help us spot the problem early and can help people work towards developing a solution.