Odds are, you’ve done it before. You lock the door of your house, get in your car, then get out, and return to check the door again. Or you notice things are askew on your desk and you line them up just so.
These habits are common. If you catch yourself doing them, you probably chuckle at your “OCD.” However, a clinical diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder is a serious mental health issue.
Obsessions are unwanted and intrusive thoughts, urges, and fears that cause tremendous anxiety. These drive you to perform repetitive actions in an effort to ease the stress caused by the obsessions. It is a vicious, unending circle for those who suffer from OCD.
Most people have a little tendency to adopt some ritualistic behaviors. But for those whose obsessions and compulsions interfere with their lives, it can be devastating. Here’s why OCD is nothing to joke about.
OCD Is a Chronic Illness
OCD is a chronic illness, which means it is persistent and long-lasting. For most people, treatment does not lead to a cure, but rather is designed to control the symptoms. It can worsen with time and doesn’t get better on its own, so intervention is crucial.
OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder, which requires mental health treatment. Pharmaceutical intervention includes serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are highly effective in treating the symptoms of OCD. In fact, studies show symptom reduction with SRIs may hit 40% to 60%.
SRIs are a class of drugs used to treat depression, which can accompany OCD. Medications may do double duty, but not all medications prescribed to treat depression are effective for treating OCD. It’s important to talk to a doctor to find which option would work best for you.
Exposure and response prevention is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy proven effective in treating OCD symptoms. Patients are exposed to the circumstances that typically trigger compulsions. Then, they use methods learned in therapy to choose to not perform compulsive actions. ERP begins under the supervision of a therapist. Later, patients can prevent compulsive responses on their own. Choices made based on the irrational can be replaced by logical ones.
As a chronic illness, the impact of OCD is similar to the impact of diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease. It may not be curable, but those who suffer from it may find treatment that improves their ability to manage it.
Complications Accompany OCD
Few chronic conditions exist in a bubble. Complications from diabetes, for example, include nerve damage, kidney disease, and the inability for wounds to heal. They make an already serious health issue even worse.
The type of obsessive thoughts and the disruptive nature of compulsive actions associated with OCD can lead to depression. Because these lead to serious problems with personal relationships, the risk is significant.
If you haven’t stopped thinking that OCD is no laughing matter, consider the results of recent studies. Those suffering from OCD are 10 times more likely to commit suicide than those who don’t have OCD. There’s nothing humorous about that statistic.
A lack of self-care and personal hygiene are also complications of the illness. Significant weight gain or loss, dehydration, malnutrition, urinary incontinence, and high cholesterol become comorbidities of OCD. It’s easy to understand how extreme obsession can deter attention from health and well-being.
On the other hand, attention paid to compulsive behaviors can also result in physical complications. Extreme washing of the hands or body can lead to dermatitis and other serious skin conditions. Headaches, allergies, and respiratory issues can be caused by products used for the constant compulsion to clean.
As with most illnesses, OCD is usually accompanied by minor and major complications. Treatment, which may help manage symptoms, is imperative. In fact, it may be the difference between life and death.
OCD Can Destroy Quality of Life
Most definitions of “quality of life” include terms such as comfort, good health, enjoyment, and participation. They also include some sort of measurement, as in the degree to which you can do or achieve any of these. OCD can gut quality of life, one degree at a time.
Those who devote massive amounts of time in their OCD rituals rob time they could be spending with others. Moreover, the rituals themselves are annoying, tedious, and disconcerting to the observer. Imagine your partner constantly uttering phrases or repeating words to ward off a perceived fear.
As compulsive behaviors worsen, relationships suffer. Even if a partner, family member, or friend is sympathetic, they may reach the point of walking away. The resulting isolation can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts in the wake of the loss of connection.
Compulsive behaviors may also make it impossible for an OCD sufferer to hold a job. Too much time spent on them reduces the time needed to perform work duties. The actions themselves can frighten, annoy, and frustrate customers and coworkers
The inability to refrain from compulsive rituals cuts into school time too. Actions distract not only the student with OCD, but teachers and fellow students as well. The lack of academic completion is a barrier to employment, housing, and other opportunities.
It has been said that the quality of life is more important than life itself. It has also been said that the quality of life is determined by its activities. A life overwhelmed by the symptoms of OCD becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Take It Seriously
A lot of people go through life with a few minor OCD-like tendencies. There’s no reason to worry about them or seek help for them. It’s even OK to shake your head at yourself and smile when you catch yourself doing them.
But for those who suffer moderate to severe symptoms of OCD, nothing is amusing about it. There are no silly obsessions or entertaining compulsions. There is only a serious mind wired in such a way that can be dangerous to its health and well-being.
The right medication and proper therapy can help OCD sufferers manage their tendencies. And that may help them lead happier, easier lives filled with laughter.