WHAT IS OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) includes two main components: obsessions and compulsions.
- Obsessions are unwelcome images, urges, thoughts, worries or questions that repetitively appear in your mind. They can result in feelings of anxiousness, even if some people refer to it as mental discomfort instead of anxiety. Most people feel anxious, but not to the point their emotions and behavior are out of control.
- Compulsions are repetitive activities the sufferer uses to minimize anxiety triggered by the obsession. It could be an action like continually ensuring a window is closed, repeating a specific mantra in your head, or seeing how your body feels.
“OCD is a common disorder that affects adults, adolescents, and children all over the world. Most people are diagnosed by about age 19, typically with an earlier age of onset in boys than in girls, but onset after age 35 does happen.” We haven’t settled on a cause of OCD, but years of research and working with sufferers have uncovered clues about its origins, including genetics, brain structure and functioning, and environment beginning in childhood.
4 MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT OCD
According to Ralph Ryback M.D., OCD “is a mental illness that is experienced by as many as 1 in 100 Americans each year, with roughly 50 percent of these cases classified as severe.” Many people with OCD are misunderstood, grappling with stigmatization which can negatively affect life at work, home, and in relationships. Here are common misconceptions about obsessive-compulsive disorder to be aware of:
- People with OCD love keeping things organized and neat. When someone jokingly says they’re “OCD because I vacuum the carpeting every day,” it’s the equivalent of saying “I’m a major anorexic” because I avoid sweets after meals. The truth is OCD is a severe mental illness characterized by high levels of emotional distress and anxiety. OCD sufferers might have cleanliness habits, but they don’t “love” them.
- OCD is focused on handwashing, cleaning, and living life as a “germaphobe.” False. The condition shows inversely in different people. Only a fraction of people with OCD, in fact, are fearful of germs or have compulsions linked to keeping themselves and the world around them clean.
- Signs of OCD are obvious. As unbelievable as it seems, you likely encounter people with obsessive-compulsive disorder but don’t even realize it. That’s because people suffering from OCD are frequently able to conceal or suppress their symptoms when in public, particularly if they’re getting proper treatment, such as ketamine therapy.
- People who say they’re OCD are weaklings who should just calm down. For someone without this illness, the symptoms kick off absurd or comical refrains like “just stop cleaning,” when in reality OCD is a chronic illness whose sufferers have brain regions that literally malfunction.
HOW IS OCD DIAGNOSED?
Many people assume they can diagnose their own illness, especially if they have certain feelings, an injury, or an obvious illness, but OCD can only be diagnosed by a trained professional. A doctor or therapist will look for three signs:
- The person has obsessions.
- Compulsive behaviors are present.
- The obsessions and compulsions are time-consuming and interfere with important activities the sufferer values, such as working, hobbies, going to school, or spending time with loved ones.
TROUBLES WITH DIAGNOSIS?
Diagnosing OCD isn’t like recognizing an ear infection and getting a prescription for amoxicillin, it’s more complicated than that. OCD symptoms are sometimes indistinguishable from signs associated with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, or other mental health illnesses. Complications arise if it’s paired with another diagnosed mental illness.
The most common treatment options for OCD include psychological counseling, medicine, or a combination of both. Once you’ve been diagnosed, your healthcare provider may recommend other treatments, including self-help and ketamine therapy. Ketamine is medicine most frequently used in pre-and post-operative environments, but research since the 1960s has proven its efficacy not only for anesthesia, but also to treat symptoms of OCD, depression, and other mental illnesses.
OCD is a serious illness affecting many people, about 1 in 100, or more than 300,000 in the United States. If you’re one of them, it’s nothing to be ashamed of or hide from. Once you’ve recognized the symptoms, you’ve taken the first steps to regain control of your life.