This disorder includes either obsessions (intrusive recurrent thoughts and impulses that cause distress) or compulsions (repetitive behaviours or mental acts that the person is driven to perform in order to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsession). In most cases, both obsessions and compulsions are present.
Many people assume that OCD is related to excessive hand-washing and a need to keep everything in order. In reality, however, OCD can take numerous forms, such as:
- Compulsive checking. Repeatedly checking and re-checking doors, locks, stove, iron, etc. The checking can also be health-related. Checking temporarily reduces anxiety brought by the obsessive thoughts about pending disaster, but this relief is short-lived - the anxiety always returns with a vengeance.
- Washing and cleaning. The constant washing, cleaning, and sanitizing is related to obsessions about contamination by germs, viruses, dirt, chemicals, air pollution and other potentially harmful substances.
- Hoarding. Collecting insignificant items and having difficulty letting go of things that other people would consider junk.
- Ordering, repeating, and symmetry. Arranging and re-arranging things until it feels "just right."
- Scrupulosity. Obsessions about offending God, or violating religious, moral, or ethical principles.
- Primary obsessional OCD (Pure O). In this case, there are hardly any visible rituals present. The obsessions can be about violence, harm to self or others, or they can be of sexual nature. Even though this form of OCD is frequently called "Pure O" over the internet, in most cases, people do engage in numerous mental rituals, such as trying to suppress or "neutralize" the thoughts or performing invisible mental rituals - praying, counting, checking, or repeating a lucky/positive phrase.
OCD is treated by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), which have been proven to be the golden standard of treatment of this disorder.
Check out our blog posts on OCD for more insight.