The OCD impact - living with compulsive behaviours

It’s not uncommon for most people to get a few minutes away from home, and turn back in order to make sure the door is locked. We all double and triple-check things at times, especially if it has to do with safety and security. But imagine what it would be like to have constant intrusive thoughts about what might happen if you left the door unlocked, and the only way you can proceed with your day is to return home and rattle the door handle continuously in order to calm those obsessive thoughts.

The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) states that: “ Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviours (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over. People with OCD may have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions, or both. These symptoms can interfere with all aspects of life, such as work, school, and personal relationships.”

Obsessions are the repeated thoughts one might have, and compulsions are the repetitive behaviours that a person with OCD will carry out due to the obsessive thoughts. For the person living with OCD, it can feel like a vicious cycle, with no beginning or end.

According to the NIMH, a person with OCD generally has the following behaviours and characteristics:

1. Can’t control his or her thoughts or behaviours, even when those thoughts or behaviours are recognised as excessive

2. Spends at least one hour a day on these thoughts or behaviours

3. Doesn't get pleasure when performing the behaviours or rituals, but may feel brief relief from the anxiety the thought causes

4. Experiences significant problems in their daily life due to these thoughts or behaviours.

One of the most difficult things for people living with OCD is learning how to deal with the perceptions and beliefs that other people have about this disorder. Often those struggling with OCD will be told that they should be able to just stop the obsessive thoughts and rituals; if only it were that easy. Like so many other mental health issues, OCD leaves people feeling powerless, helpless, and alone as they learn to adapt in the world with the thoughts and behaviours that interfere with their daily lives.

If you think your life is being impacted by OCD, it is important that you contact your physician for more information. If left untreated, OCD can interfere with every aspect of your daily life. OCD can be treated and the most common treatment is a combination of cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) and medication.