Obsession and Compulsive Disorders

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people who suffer from this condition have recurring unwanted thoughts or ideas (obsessions) that make them feel urged to do certain behaviour repetitively (compulsions). For individuals with Obsessive-compulsive disorder, it is impossible to ignore these obsessions as it would just lead to distress and anxiety where the ritualistic behaviour (compulsion) would release the stress. These obsessions and compulsions can affect one's quality of life as they are time-consuming and may interfere with one's ability to attend work, school or social activities and may lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviour.

What are the related symptoms?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) usually involves obsessions and compulsions. Symptoms usually begin gradually and tend to vary in severity throughout life. The symptoms of OCD can affect daily life as these individuals spend a lot of their day dealing with their repetitive compulsions. OCD obsessions are repeated, persistent urges that cause distress or anxiety. They are often around themes such as:

  • Fear of contamination or dirt
  • Needing things orderly and symmetrical
  • Aggressive or horrific thoughts about harming yourself or others
  • Unwanted thoughts, including aggression, or sexual or religious subjects

In response to these obsessions, OCD compulsions are done to ease the anxiety they produce. These compulsions are repetitive behaviours that you feel driven to perform. Like obsessions, they typically have themes, such as:

  • Washing and cleaning
  • Checking
  • Counting
  • Orderliness
  • Following a strict routine
  • Demanding reassurances

Completing the compulsion then may bring some relief to the stress, but only until the obsession returns and so the cycle repeats. While these rituals may seem irrational to others, those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) aren't aware of how irrational they are and also feel driven to do them when the obsession arises.

Other anxiety disorders that share similar features to OCD in that there are an obsession and possibly compulsion include:

  • Body dysmorphic disorder – the obsession or preoccupation with imagined ugliness
  • Hypochondriasis – the preoccupation with physical illness
  • Trichotillomania – the obsession with hair pulling
  • Excoriation – the preoccupation with skin picking
  • Binge eating disorder – the obsession with binging food

What can cause obsessive-compulsive disorder to develop?

While the cause of this disorder is unknown, it is believed to be linked to biology, genetics and environmental factors. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is usually considered a lifelong disorder for which symptoms can range from mild to severe throughout life, getting worse as you experience more stress in life. In some cases, symptoms can be so severe and time-consuming that it becomes disabling.

What are the possible treatment options?

If you or someone you love seems to exhibit some of the above-mentioned symptoms, it may be useful to see Dr Chawane for a consultation. After an evaluation, your psychiatrist may be able to make a diagnosis of OCD and discuss the best treatment options for you to control obsessions and lead a fulfilling life.

Treatment may include certain anti-anxiety medications and therapy, one of which has been very effective for the treatment of the obsessive-compulsive disorder is cognitive behavioural therapy. By recreating situations that trigger obsessions, your psychiatrist or psychologist may help you cope with the anxiety and learn to manage them without engaging in ritualistic behaviour.