Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is classed as an anxiety disorder which can be characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce an uneasiness, apprehension, intense levels of fear and anxiety, chronic worry and intense urges to perform particular compulsions or behaviours aimed at switching off, or minimising the level of anxiety the person experiences. These are what we call, ‘obsessions’ and ‘compulsions’. Symptoms of the condition can vary depending on the individual, manifesting in anything from excessive hand washing, counting or a need for everything to be symmetrical or perfect and mental rumination, to avoiding places or certain numbers through fear of harming others or them just not feeling right. The symptoms of OCD can be extremely isolating, leaving a person feeling alienated from others. Generally someone the suffers from OCD know on some deeper, more rational level that their OCD fears are irrational, but the persistence of intrusive thoughts and anxiety makes it difficult not to perform the compulsions.
OCD effects children and adolescents as well as adults. Many people that experience OCD report suffering from the condition since childhood, although this is not always the case, with OCD raising its head much later in life. There are clear differences between someone that has obsessive tendencies about things, and someone that is experiencing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. For someone with OCD, the levels of anxiety are higher, and the likelihood is that the compulsions can take up substantial amounts of time during a sufferer’s day.
OCD is often associated with higher levels of intelligence, a higher IQ and a natural sensitivity. People that experience OCD are likely to pay great attention to detail, generally overthink situations, have difficult making decisions (especially important ones), avoiding risk and have an exaggerated sense of responsibility.
The OCD Cycle
Anyone that has OCD will be able to identify feeling ‘stuck’ in the OCD cycle. Caught between intrusive thoughts or ‘spikes’ as they are also called, this process leads to an intense emotional response of anxiety or a feeling of dread. These feelings are so overwhelming that the urge to perform some compulsion to switch them off becomes too strong, and the individual does so, which in turn reduces the anxiety. However, by performing such rituals or compulsions we have then told our brain that that intrusive thought was important, so the next time that thought enters our mind, we feel anxious again, and so the cycle continues. Below, is a clear diagram showing the process of the OCD cycle.