Obsessions and Compulsions
Anxiety permeates many of the thoughts and actions of a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Obsession is a kind of anxious thinking, characterized by disturbing, repetitive, incongruous or inappropriate thoughts or images that spin through the mind and increase the person’s anxiety. The obsessor often feels guilty or responsible, disturbed at imperfections, or afraid of losing his or her grip. Compulsions or rituals are stereotyped behaviors or actions driven by anxiety that may seem temporarily to relieve anxiety. Compulsions are efforts to set things right or make the obsessive concerns go away.
OCD differs from “garden variety” obsessions – with Beyonce or high performance cars, for instance – and from non-OCD compulsions like gambling, overeating, or sex, since OCD-type obsessions and compulsions are never the least bit pleasurable. Mild, non-OCD obsessions are commonplace, like thinking repeatedly about someone’s physical deformity or an impulse to do wrong, and so are everyday rituals like double-checking locks, counting things compulsively, and small-scale hoarding and cleansing routines. But people without OCD are likely to forget about passing mental intrusions and may easily dismiss mild compulsions as insignificant.
I recommend seeking help from a mental health professional if obsessions or compulsions become intensely emotionally disturbing, seriously impair your functioning, or consume more than an hour’s time per day. To get additional accurate information or to network with people working on contending with their disorder, professionals who treat it, or researchers who study it, look up the International OCD Foundation website: www.ocfoundation.org, or contact me.