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I can't help it!
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Member Name: lellagrace
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Date: 23/08/07, updated on 23/08/07 (341 review reads)
Advantages: Treatment is now available
Disadvantages: Difficult to cope with
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, sometimes referred to as OCD?
First of all it is an illness and help is available for anyone who suffers from it. Believe it or not it is thought that around 2%of the population have suffered, or are suffering from, OCD at any given time.
Women are more prone to it than men and it can also affect children.
Most cases are diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 30, but of course it affects other ages too and often starts in young teenagers.
WHAT IS IT?
OCD is a condition where people have repetitive thoughts, or have to carry out certain actions, almost rituals. They are unable to ignore these and become anxious if they don't carry out their "compulsions" or if they don't "listen" to their thoughts. They can be so badly affected that they feel if they don't do what they feel they should, then something bad may happen.
A common sympton is an obsession with cleanliness. My mother was like this, but of course at that time nobody realised she had OCD.
Mum had a fear of touching the handles in public lavatories, she would always wrap a tissue around her hand before opening/closing the door in public loos. Of course, we used to laugh at her for being so finicky, but her reply was always "I can't help it" and of course, she was right.
As for sitting on the seat in a public loo - we were told from an early age that this was not allowed in case we "caught something." Old habits die hard and I still hate public loos in restaurants etc and of course, in a way mum was right about germs being on the door handles etc, but where do we draw the line between being hygiene conscious and having OCD?
Hairs were another thing she hated. If anyone combed their hair near her or if an animal came near her, she had to change her clothes as soon as possible in case any hairs were on them.
Eating out, or even having a cup of tea in a cafe, were taboo to mum. Looking back we feel her OCD became worse after she contracted Hepatitis. She was seriously ill with this and the doctor said she had probably contracted it from eating in a restaurant where the hygiene was lacking.
After this mum was almost paranoid about eating or drinking. Even at home we each had to have our own cup, which only we used. Visitors were given different cups to those the family used and these were bleached after use.
I remember the first time mum visited my new home after I got married. She took a tissue and dusted the plate before she would eat off it!!!! My new husband was horrified, the plates were new and clean, but this was just mum's OCD making her double check. (Needless to say he soon got used to her ways!)
Some people who are affected by OCD have to repeatedly wash their hands if they feel they have been "infected".
They may have a fear of passing on germs or illnesses to others.
They may have to carry out some ritual before they feel at ease with themselves. I know a young boy who went through a stage of OCD after his father died. Every night when he went to bed the boy had to switch his light on and off repeatedly before he could settle down. This was anxiety and with counselling he overcame it.
Other sufferers may need to repeat a prayer or song in their heads over and over. If they don't finish the song or prayer, they have to start at the beginning again.
PERFECTIONIST OR OCD?
There is a difference between being a "perfectionist" and suffering from OCD. My mum used to say she was a perfectionist and it was really difficult to live with her at times. But of course we now realise she had OCD.
Everything had to be neatly organised in our house. Wardrobes had to have clothes hung all facing the same way. Socks had to be straightened and laid neatly in drawers, the same with undies. If anyone ruffled anything when removing items from the drawer or wardrobe, mum would have to tidy the whole lot again.
Tinned goods in the cupboard all had to have their labels facing the front and had to be arranged in order of size.
Cushions were plumped up as soon as anyone got off a chair. When ironing if there was a minute crease, the whole thing had to be ironed again.
We thought this was just a quirk that mum had, but it was something she just had no control over.
If we went out or before going to bed at night, mum would go round the house checking that all the switches were in the Off position and would repeatedly check the doors were locked. We got used to this in time and would follow her round saying "O-F-F, that's okay, now can we go please."
Suffering from OCD can be very time consuming. If these rituals are not carried out sufferers think something bad might happen.
Dangerous objects may pose a threat too. In our house all sharp knives were well out of reach. Pans on the stove had to have their handles pointing inwards and the front rings on the cooker were never used. This could be a sensible precaution of course, but it was so bad that if mum had used a sharp knife to cut veg or something, it had to be washed up and put away immediately and not left around until the rest of the washing up was done.
Sufferers from OCD often feel they may be "contaminated" if their rituals are not carried out. An example of this was my mother with the toilet handles.
However, another relative went through agony with her son after he started at high school. The boy became obsessed with bringing germs into the home from school. He would not have his uniform in the house, nor any of his schoolbooks, sports kit etc.
When he came home from school he would strip off his uniform in the garage and his mother had to spray his clothes or wash them before he would put them on again.
Homework posed a real problem as he would not take his books into the house. They solved this by the teachers agreeing that he could spend time in the school library, either after school, or at lunchtimes.
The causes of OCD are not really known. Some believe it is caused by stress or that it could be a family trait that has been inherited.
Depression can also exacerbate the condition.
With the young boy who reacted after the death of his father this was more than likely his way of dealing with his grief.
The boy who started with OCD after starting at high school was not happy in his new surroundings. Moving from a small junior school to a large high school caused him a lot of anxiety and this manifested itself via his OCD.
If you, or anyone close to you, is worried about having OCD, then the first step is to consult your GP. There are many ways of diagnosing OCD and by asking questions about behaviour a diagnosis can be determined.
A website OCD Action has a quiz on their website
This has a series of questions where you answer yes or no and at the end it states whether or not you could be suffering from OCD or are at risk of developing it.
After an initial assessment by the GP, various treatments are available. This may be a visit to a counsellor or a psychotherapist.
The first thing to do is to enable sufferers to gain control over their fears. Relaxation techniques may help or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
For example, someone who has a compulsion to wash their hands may be asked to handle an object they class as being dirty and not to wash their hands immediately afterwards.
This was used by someone who had a fear or picking up germs from handling library books. He was taken to a public library and asked to handle several books. It was a challenge and very difficult at first, but eventually he conquered his "fear".
After reading this review, if you are worried then do seek help. OCD can control people's lives, not just their own but their families and friends too.
I only wish we could have sought help for my mother, it was hard trying to help her cope with her OCD but we didn't recognise it as being treatable and just had to learn to live with it, often resorting to humour to help her cope.
Thank goodness help is now available for OCD sufferers and their families.
Summary: OCD is an illness that can be treated