Patterns of communication and unresolved conflict.
We all have certain thoughts or ideas or even images that get “stuck in our minds” every now and again; in addition, we might engage in specific behaviours or actions in an effort to quell or get rid of such thoughts. An example could be when certain song lyrics continuously play in our minds until a particular action is completed that, in one way or another, “pauses” the track that has been running for some time.
When particular thoughts become frequent, intrusive, and lead to distressing levels of anxiety and the actions interrupt daily functioning, obsessive compulsive disorder might be present. Seeing a mental health professional for assistance would be helpful.
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
There are two main characteristics in cases of OCD: obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions refer to thoughts, ideas, or impulses that are frequently on our mind, even though they are unwanted, make little sense, and/or are uncomfortably intrusive. Obsessions are typically accompanied by feelings of anxiety, fear, disgust, or doubt and often result get in the way of completing important and valued activities.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviours used with the intent to neutralize or counteract the consequences of an intrusive thought (obsession). Although compulsions might be short term solutions, engaging in them is the coping method of choice for individuals with OCD.
Do All Obsessions and Rituals Mean I Have OCD?
In society, we often hear (or maybe ourselves talk about) being “obsessed” with a person or object. In these cases, “obsession” is being used in a casual sense that refers to being preoccupied with a given topic or object in a way that does not interfere with everyday functioning.
Various religious practices and learned routines involve engaging in repetitive behaviours but are distinct from clinical compulsions in that they are positive and functional parts of daily life. When we feel compelled or driven to engage in a particular compulsive behaviour even though it takes up our time and it is not something that we really want to have to do, this is likely to be indicative of an obsessive compulsive ritual.
Types of Obsessions and Compulsions
Common obsessions for persons with OCD are: contamination, losing control, harm, perfectionism, unwanted sexual thoughts. Compulsions related to the aforementioned obsessions might be washing, checking, repeating, and other mental compusions (ie counting).
Since each obsessive thought and compulsive behaviour can be unique to each person, there is a lot of variance in the specifics from case to case.
Who Gets or is At Risk for OCD?
Although people of all ages, ethnicies, and cultures could develop OCD, there are two main groups of especially at risk groups: children aged 8 – 13 and late adolescents/young adults.
Both structural abnormalities in the brain and family history of the disorder are potential causes.
Fortunately, various forms of psychotherapy have shown to be effective in the treatment of the obsessions and compulsions part of OCD. Antidepressant medication and behaviour therapies are additional options. Discussing treatment options with one of our therapists could provide a much needed ray of hope!
Abramowitz, J. S., & Reuman, L. (2020). Obsessive compulsive disorder. Encyclopedia of personality and individual differences, 3304-3306.
Orsillo, S. M., Roemer, L., Block-Lerner, J., LeJeune, C., & Herbert, J. D. (2004). ACT with anxiety disorders. In A practical guide to acceptance and commitment therapy (pp. 103-132). Springer, Boston, MA.
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