Living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an extremely troubling experience for anyone to encounter. It’s a chronic disorder that presents itself often and for a long period of time, making it difficult for anyone to see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’
While there is no cure for OCD, there are ways to manage and relieve yourself of the symptoms. The sooner you detect the obsessive-compulsive disorder in yourself or a loved one, the sooner they can begin to receive the help they need.
That’s why it’s important for everyone to understand what OCD is, what the common signs and symptoms are, how OCD can negatively affect your life, and when it’s time to seek professional help with your OCD. Don’t worry, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about OCD before speaking with a professional.
What Is OCD Behavior & What Causes OCD?
Many people throw the term ‘obsessive-compulsive disorder’ around frequently to describe everyday habits and rituals, but that’s far from what this mental illness is. The truth is, we all have tiny obsessions or compulsions that make us who we are and dictate how we live our life.
The difference between that and obsessive-compulsive disorder is that OCD intrusive thoughts and behaviors can’t be controlled by the individual. In addition to that, the thoughts and behaviors are reoccurring to the point that they start to negatively affect the way they think and act in the future.
It doesn’t matter what kind of mood you’re in, how you feel about another person, how you feel about yourself, or what you have going on that day; these obsessions and compulsions continue to take over your life. Eventually, you start to feel so distant from yourself that you lose the purpose you once had in life.
Like most mental illnesses experienced today, scientists, researchers, and doctors have yet to fully understand how this disorder is caused or how it affects the brain. With that being said, they have found three major factors that could play a role in OCD symptoms and signs of OCD.
Let’s take a closer look at those three factors -- including genetics, cognitive function, and the environment:
- Genetics - some studies suggest a connection between genetics and OCD. Studies show that people with first-degree family members suffering from OCD have an increased risk of suffering from it themselves, especially if the other person developed it as a child or teen.
- Cognitive Function - using images of the brain in people without OCD compared to those with OCD, researchers found differences in the use of the subcortical structures and frontal cortex of the brain.
- Environment - some studies even suggest a connection between childhood trauma and obsessive-compulsive disorder, though more research is needed to confirm this connection.
While researchers have certainly come a long way in understanding what OCD is and what causes it, there is continued and ongoing research that is vital to the future success of the field. As scientists learn more, researchers and doctors will be better equipped to develop personalized treatments to help meet the needs of the patient.
What Are the Symptoms of OCD?
As we mentioned above, OCD comes down to two major signs or symptoms -- obsessions or compulsions. Obsessions are generally reoccurring and uncontrollable thoughts, which are followed by compulsions -- the behavior that follows the thought.
Furthermore, these obsessions and compulsions usually have a theme to them that better help you determine whether you’re experiencing a habit, ritual, or OCD. These themes can be categorized into five main categories -- checking, symmetry/order, cleaning, forbidden thoughts, or hoarding.
- Checking - some people might feel the need to constantly check that they locked their front door or that they turned the oven off. Others might feel the need to constantly check in with their doctor, even though they aren’t injured or sick (just to make sure).
- Symmetry/Order - some people need to have things a certain way, such as where they put their keys when they get home or which way their condiments face in the refrigerator. The pantry is also another common obsession that causes you to organize it a certain way.
- Cleaning - any fear of bacteria or a general fear of things not being clean might cause OCD thoughts or behavior. Some people might even think something is dirty, despite it being clean. These people are often found cleaning things too often, even when they don’t feel like it.
- Forbidden Thoughts - sometimes OCD doesn’t cause a reaction or behavior, but the OCD intrusive thoughts can be extremely graphic and horrific. Some thoughts might want to put you or someone you love in danger, even though you have no ill-will in your heart.
- Hoarding - some people might feel the need to hoard items out of fear of throwing something valuable out on accident, while other people might hoard items because they’re scared to touch them when throwing them away.
A majority of these thoughts and behaviors are normal to have every now and then, especially since there’s nothing wrong with checking that you turned the oven off, keeping things organized, having a weird thought, or keeping things clean on a regular basis.
The problem with obsessive-compulsive disorder is that these thoughts and behaviors take over your life. There’s no controlling them and there’s no stopping them once they begin. Some people might even find themselves repeating certain phrases several times just because they didn’t like how it sounded when it came out of their month.
How Do OCD Intrusive Thoughts Affect Your Life?
As you can likely imagine, obsessive-compulsive disorder has an enormous effect on an individual’s ability to find peace and happiness in this fast-paced world. People who suffer from this disease often feel lonely and hopeless, especially since not many people around them understand what they’re going through.
The truth is, OCD can affect someone in a variety of ways, and it can even affect some in more than one way. Let’s take a look at some of the ways it’ll negatively affect your life and why it’s so important to detect the early warning signs of OCD:
- OCD can cause you to lose focus and attention on schoolwork, causing you to struggle in the classroom and fall behind your classmates.
- OCD can also cause you to underperform at your employment and you might feel uncomfortable being around coworkers when experiencing OCD intrusive thoughts.
- OCD will make it difficult to connect with others and might cause your relationships with friends or family to suffer because your thoughts have taken over your life.
- OCD makes it difficult to settle down with a partner and start a family with someone, especially since you’re constantly focused on something else or worrying about something.
- Overall, obsessive-compulsive disorder affects your ability to live a quality life and do the things you’ve always wanted to do.
- OCD is often linked to a variety of other mental illnesses and disorders, which can further complicate your life when not handled or maintained.
- Since many people with OCD feel like they’re alone in their battle, they often feel guilty or worthless when around others, especially if they don’t understand the pain they’re in.
In addition to that, obsessive-compulsive disorder is almost certain to add an intense level of stress and anxiety into your life -- along with a wide range of other health and wellness concerns. Some people even report physical damage to their body due to their compulsions.
The longer OCD goes without being treated, the worse it can get and the more it can damage your quality of life. The sooner you find help, the sooner you can start to regain control of your life and start to reach your true potential.
Learning How You Can Get Help Today For OCD
At Mind Diagnostics, we understand how frustrating and difficult living with obsessive-compulsive disorder can be sometimes. That’s why we remain dedicated to providing people suffering from this disorder with the right tools and resources required to receive the help they need.
Understanding and detecting the signs and symptoms of OCD is only the start of this uphill battle, but it’s an enormous step in the right direction. Next, you need to seek professional help, that way you can start to find relief from your obsessions and compulsions.
It’s also important to ensure you have a solid support group willing to be there for you through thick and thin. They’ll be the ones that help you far beyond what the therapist can do.
If you’re having a hard time determining whether you’re suffering from OCD or just a normal, everyday habit/ritual, we’ve created an online obsessive-compulsive disorder test that’ll help you find the answers you need.
Even if you feel a therapist is needed by the time you’re done with the test, we’ll help you find the right one in your area. Together, we can start to give yourself a sense of direction and stability that you’ve been missing in life.