Becky Young explores OCD and offers some practical tips to deal with the condition.
It can be a normal feeling that we’ve forgotten something when we leave the house, or that we’ve not locked the door, we’ve left the cooker on or something else that’s easy to slip the mind, but of vital importance. For some, though, the burden of habitually checking everything, repeatedly, can be duplicitous to say the least!
Obsessive compulsive disorder consumes the individual, driving intense fears of extreme and improbable scenarios. The brain’s filter for sorting out the dangerous from the safe doesn’t work properly in OCD, and what most of us would class as ‘normal’ feelings of uncertainty or doubt, would spiral out of control in a person with the condition.
The Most Common
The most stereotypical form of OCD is cleaning. Although most of us like to be in clean and tidy surroundings, people with OCD feel the need to deep clean their homes and even work spaces, and generally live in very minimal, sterile environments, and can’t abide dirt or mess. For an example, Cleaning contractors by nature have stringent standards and methods, but a person with OCD will find these standards lacking, and will re-clean to their own satisfaction after the cleaner has left. Others may have the compulsion for constant hand-washing, and performing rituals and routines in a certain order.
Although the exact cause isn’t known, research has brought a better understanding to experts who now believe that there could be a link relating to the levels of serotonin in the brain. If the flow of serotonin is interrupted or blocked, the brain can overreact and misinterpret information. The mind can dwell on useless thoughts instead of filtering them out, leaving the sufferer with unrealistic doubts and fears.
OCD is an illness like any other. But unlike other illnesses it can’t be diagnosed with blood tests. A psychiatrist or occupational therapist would have to question the patient about their obsessions and compulsive behaviours. They can then diagnose from this assessment.
Help and therapy
Some drugs can help relieve the symptoms and anxiety associated with OCD, and cognitive behavioural therapy is commonly touted as a positive intervention. Patients are taught how to tolerate anxieties and how to change the way they think about fearful things but unfortunately there is no quick fix. It takes a lot of patience and dedication. Therapy can go a long way to helping, if attended regularly once or twice a week. As symptoms improve therapy sessions can be less often. Joining a support group can also help – a sufferer finding that they have a disorder in common with other people can make them feel less alone.