What is this OCD anyway?
By Ryan Light, Running/Anxiety Coach
What is this OCD thing anyway??? Having suffered from OCD most if not all my life, I know first hand what this mental disorder can do to one’s life. To use the term, “oh don’t be OCD”, “I’m acting so OCD” bothers me, as most people that use this term have no clue what they are talking about, and if they did they wouldn’t use such terms due the havoc this mental disorder has on one’s life. What many don’t know or understand is that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that makes people have disturbing thoughts, urges and images that cause much discomfort and sever anxiety, many lead to panic disorders – such as in my case!
Those of us with OCD usually realize that we have no ability to control our compulsive behavior, and realize that it’s irrational. Recently the International OCD Foundation came up with estimates that revealed that 1 out of 200 children, and 1 out of 100 adults in the USA has OCD. This condition appears for the first time in childhood and teen years, and they ordinarily occur in equal numbers both in men and women.
Some common obsessions
Contamination – People with OCD usually have distress and fear getting into contact with, germs, dirt, chemicals, and other sticky substances as they fear becoming sick because of dirty and contaminated items. Personal accident or to others: They develop a fear of causing harm to themselves or other people due to carelessness. A good example is when a person develops a fear of not cleaning well a counter for fear that the germs will make another person sick.
Exactness and symmetry – Need to get items ordered in a positive manner, i.e., according to size, color and direction it faces. Children and teens who have this kind of obsession become anxious simply because they have a feeling that something bad may happen. Due to their beliefs in superstition (e.g., if I do not have my clothes arranged in a particular manner, my dad will die). Most of them believe that their thoughts are strange, but they do not know that this sounds peculiar to other people.
The need for perfection – Most kids and teens want everything to be perfect and right. For instance, your kid may not be able to do his or her homework until he or she feels that the table and chair should arrange in a certain way before starting to do the homework.
Forbidden thoughts – When the kids reach sexual maturity, they always think about sexual identity and sex all the time. However, some teens develop unwanted images and thoughts of becoming gay as much as they know they are not, or even imagining of indulging in sexual behaviors that makes them feel repulsive and upset.
Some common compulsions
Washing and cleaning – Washing hands until they bleed and get raw. Examples of such rituals include toilet rituals, tooth brushing/grooming, showering and cleaning compulsions.
Checking – It involves checking locks, doors, backpacks, so as to make sure everything is safe.
Mental rituals – Mere observation sees not all compulsions of children and teens with OCD. Some of them exercise their rituals in their head by saying prayers so as to change a harmful thought or image with a good one.
Counting, touching, tapping, or rubbing – Compulsions can also involve counting, touching, tapping, or rubbing objects in a particular manner.
Ordering/Arranging – These take in arranging objects in an exact manner, for example, books in a bag or utensils in a rack and this has to match by color.
Signs and Symptoms
Thoughts – Having thought of what will happen if you get sick. Accepting handling an accident. Thinking that if you do not get smart grades you future is ruined. You believe in superstition.
Physical feelings – They include, dizziness, stomach aches, headache, racing heart, muscle tension, breathing difficulties, and feeling de-realization.
Emotions – The major signs of emotions are as follows, worry/fear/anxiety, sadness, shame, guilt, and anger.
Behaviors – You tend to ask your parents to buy extra cleaning supplies or toilet papers. Making everybody wash his or her hands before meals. Washing body and hands thoroughly. Avoiding touching handles, doorknobs, etc.
How it affects People’s lives
Having this mental disorder makes one stay obsessed with anything, i.e., germs, injuries and accidents which, in the long run, makes one perform rituals so as to calm obsessive behaviors. This anxiety disorder also leads many like me to develop intrusive thoughts such as I’m going to harm my kids, run someone over while driving, etc…in doing so it affects one’s social interaction. Such as in my case not wanting to touch my kids, drive my car, due to thinking that I could either harm my kids or run someone over.
When first coming under distress of unwanted thoughts I was in my teens. I was fortune enough to be really good at hiding my disorder, but many can not hide their compulsive behaviors. Because of this they are seen as being different from others in school causing much stress and embarrassment. Later in life this can cause a stigma for those with a mental illness. This stigma impairs social skills, and many have difficulties building longing relationships.
How exercising can help curve some effect of OCD
I have found that exercise helps me control my anxiety as it promotes the release of endorphins that are feel-good neurochemicals. I found that exercising helped to improve my self-esteem as it pushed my limits well beyond what I thought was capable. I also helped build my self-confidence which enhanced my ability to cope better with stressing moments, and key effects of OCD. Exercise imposes distraction and gets your mind focus on something other than your OCD. I’ve found that that running requires much attention and focus, thereby, giving me a break from obsessions and compulsions.
So, what is the OCD thing? It’s not a thing to be taken lightly, it’s a real mental disorder that affects millions of people each day. Next time rearrange your towels. or fix the toilet paper don’t be confused – you’re not ACTING OCD!
Looking for an anxiety coach? Please reach out to contact me as I’ve helped dozens of people beat their anxiety and get back to living life.