What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Obsessions are thoughts, images, or thoughts that will not go away, are unnecessary and cause extreme pain.

Everyone has strange, unusual and even disturbing thoughts from time to time. Most people will continue their daily lives without thinking about these experiences, but if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), these types of events can become both distressing and debilitating.

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?

There are many different types of obsessions, including:

  • Constantly worrying about getting a deadly disease and/or spreading your germs to others
  • Worry about being contaminated by environmental toxins such as lead or radioactivity
  • Strongly worried that terrible things will happen to the one you love
  • Deeply worried that you will do something very embarrassing, such as yelling at the funeral
  • Believe that you might hit or injure someone with your car unknowingly
  • Offensive or disturbing thoughts, such as thoughts of murdering your partner or child
  • Disturbing sexual and/or religious images that may include sexual assault or inappropriate sexual behavior
  • There is a strong need to reorder things until they feel “just right”
  • Fear of harming inanimate objects
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Obsessions are more than just worrying about your daily problems; they often feel uncontrollable, even if you can recognize their irrationality.

Often these obsessions are so weak that it is difficult for you to keep up with work or maintain relationships. Obsessions are so painful that you try to get rid of them with other thoughts or behaviors called compulsions.

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Compulsive behaviors are behaviors that must be performed over and over again to relieve anxiety. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is usually related to obsessive thoughts. For example, if you are addicted to being contaminated, you may feel compelled to wash your hands repeatedly or use hand sanitizer.

Common compulsive behaviors include cleaning, counting, checking, requesting or demanding guarantees, and ensuring order and symmetry.

Like OCD, people with OCD usually (but not always) understand the irrationality of their compulsive behavior.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and thought suppression

Given that obsessive-compulsive disorder is the core of obsessive-compulsive disorder, some people think that thought suppression may play a role in some of the symptoms that cause obsessive-compulsive disorder. People with OCD may overreact to dangerous thoughts and try to push them away, which will only make them worse than before.

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Of course, this leads to more thought repression, which leads to more painful thoughts, and thus forms a vicious circle.For example, as part of a study, people with OCD were asked to suppress their painful thoughts on certain days and allow themselves to have these thoughts on other days.

At the end of each day, they were asked to record the number of intrusive thoughts they experienced in their diaries. Not surprisingly, people with OCD recorded twice as intrusive thoughts in the days when they tried to suppress their thoughts than in the days when they let their thoughts flow freely.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder

There are many other diseases that, although technically do not meet the DSM diagnostic criteria for obsessive-compulsive disorder, have very similar symptoms and are sometimes described as belonging to the so-called obsessive-compulsive spectrum. The spectrum captures different groups of symptoms that are reminiscent of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but are not exactly the same as those of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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Usually (but not always) the only difference between OCD and specific OCD spectrum disorder is the specific focus of OCD and/or OCD.

For example, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental illness in which patients have obsessive thoughts about minor abnormalities in their appearance or imperfections in their imagination. Like OCD, BDD involves repeated examinations; however, the difference between the two is that patients with OCD usually do not pay attention to their appearance.

Treat obsessive-compulsive disorder

Although obsessive-compulsive disorder-related obsessions can be debilitating, there are multiple treatment options that are safe and effective for many people. These include medications, psychotherapy, self-help techniques, and surgical procedures in extreme cases.