Have you ever heard people jokingly refer to themselves as having OCD? Of course, they are referring to a condition known as obsessive-compulsive disorder. But the disorder is no joke. People who suffer from it can find that their compulsive behaviours rule their lives. In the most severe cases, OCD can be socially and psychologically debilitating.
María R. de Almeida is a clinical specialist who treats obsessive-compulsive disorder in London, among other things. She explains that OCD is often misunderstood because it is overly simplified in literature, film, etc. For example, de Almeida says that OCD does not present as a single behaviour. Rather, there are five recognised categories under which all OCD behaviours fall.
1. Checking Behaviours
Checking behaviours are those characterised by a constant need to check something. It may be fuelled by fear or insecurity. It might be triggered by a lack of confidence or an inability to remember things. A person exhibiting these types of behaviours might:
- obsessively check locked doors
- routinely rehearse past memories
- seek assurances of safety
- check and recheck travel routes.
2. Contamination Behaviours
An OCD sufferer obsessed about contamination might constantly worry about dirt, germs, etc. Common contamination behaviours include avoiding public toilets, avoiding shaking hands, and constantly cleaning everything from doorhandles to staircase banisters. Some OCD patients with contamination issues might even go to great lengths to avoid crowds, public spaces, and using money (cash).
OCD contamination behaviours can even prevent patients from getting the medical help they need. They are so fearful of public spaces that they refuse to see a doctor or visit with a therapist. They may actively avoid going to the hospital in times of medical emergency.
3. Hoarding Behaviours
Though hoarding includes components that do not necessarily fall under the OCD banner, mental health professionals still consider hoarding behaviours typical of OCD. A person suffering from hoarding compulsions is unable to discard unnecessary or unwanted items. An unhealthy attachment to objects is formed, making it nearly impossible to reduce the volume of possessions one owns.
In addition to being unable to part with possessions, hoarders:
- buy compulsively
- fear not having something when needed
- consider discarding possessions a personal affront.
4. Rumination Behaviours
Rumination behaviours involve intrusive thoughts that a person obsesses over, despite such thoughts not having any real value. In some extreme cases, the thoughts can be disturbing to the point of being repugnant or horrific. An OCD patient demonstrating rumination behaviours may latch on to a line of thinking and be unable to let it go for a considerable length of time. Rumination behaviours can involve:
- personal relationships
- sexual relationships
- religious thought
- political thought
- magic or mysticism.
5. Symmetry Behaviours
Symmetry behaviours are the fifth and final OCD category. A patient exhibiting these behaviours is obsessive over symmetrical order. This person will constantly feel the need to straighten pictures, line up books, organise CDs, etc. Not only must everything have a place, but everything must be perfectly positioned in its place. From clothing to furniture and food on a plate, perfect symmetry is non-negotiable.
In closing, it is not unusual for the average person to exhibit minor OCD behaviours from time to time. That does not make a person a genuine OCD sufferer. People clinically diagnosed with OCD do not demonstrate specific behaviours only on an occasional basis. Such behaviours are a normal part of their life to the point of being controlling.
OCD is no joke. Likewise, making jokes about it really is inappropriate. OCD is a serious condition that can make life very unpleasant for the sufferer.