O is for OCD



A place for everything, and everything in its place. I love being organized, but we can take organization to extremes. I once worked with a man in the Hill Country who would have a literal meltdown if his stapler was a quarter-inch out of place. He suffered from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, often referred to as OCD, is a common anxiety disorder. Unwanted, fear-based thoughts circle uncontrollably in your brain and lead to compulsive behaviors. The cycle starts with the obsessions comprising unwanted thoughts, urges, mental images, doubts and what ifs which cause anxiety. The anxiety leads to the compulsion which provides relief—for a brief time. Before long, the cycle begins again with the obsession.

One to three percent of the population of the United States deals with OCD. One in every 200 children is diagnosed with it. OCD sneaks up on you. Symptoms start mild and ebb and flow throughout your life. Contrary to popular beliefs, OCD is not just a personality quirk. It’s not a joke. It’s a very real and debilitating disorder.

Some common obsession/ compulsion combinations include contamination obsession leading to excessive hand washing; symmetry obsessions leading to constant rearranging and counting; and fears of losing things that lead to hoarding. The most frightening OCD combination is a harm obsession leading to checking compulsions. If you experience this symptom subtype, you will often have intense thoughts related to possible harm to yourself or others and use checking rituals to relieve your distress. For example, you might imagine your house burning down and then repeatedly drive by your house to make sure that there is no fire. Or, you may feel that by thinking about a disastrous event, you are increasing the likelihood of such an event actually happening.

Uncontrolled OCD can disrupt your life. Treatment is readily available and includes medications and therapy. If you or someone you love shows signs of OCD, contact your doctor and talk about it.

Until next time, remember to breathe.

GLENDA THOMPSON is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express and is currently writing an A-Z series on Mental Health. Glenda is not a doctor, therapist, mental health expert or medical professional, therefore, you should not use these columns as medical advice. Glenda resides in Charlotte where she is hard at work on the second novel in a series about Texas Rangers with dark secrets.

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