Updated: Oct 4, 2022
Disturbing images in your mind’s eye?
Rituals you must carry out. Not doing them is not an option.
Urges which do not subside?
Behaviour responses to thoughts?
If you have answered yes to the above questions, then you may benefit from continuing to read this article. Please note that obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known colloquially as OCD - is a mental health condition, and diagnosis is required through medical channels (e.g., speaking to a health professional or doctor). The intrusive thoughts, mental images, rituals, urges and behavioural responses are only a portion of symptoms of the disorder. Other manifestations are hair pulling, skin picking and body dysmorphic disorder. Each of these aspects is not mutually exclusive and an individual can experience one or many, interchangeably. Reflecting, the irregular symptomatic nature of these occurrences would not bring comfort to those who suffer from the disorder because order and routine provide relief, albeit only momentary.
The momentary relief, mentioned above, can be explained by using the analogy of a cycle. The cycle incorporates brief relief, although, closely followed by further intrusive thoughts which leads to anxiety, then onto compulsion which then provides relief again. What is notable with the repetitive behaviour is the person’s mental cognitive load and energy being spent, which is required to maintain this tempo. However, only limited and short-lived relief is ever obtained. This is perpetually exhausting for those living with OCD.
Compulsions can be overt and covert. Examples of overt compulsions are cleaning, touching and checking; covert compulsions examples are, counting or mental checking. It is not unusual for those with the disorder to catastrophise and gets bogged down with the ‘what ifs’ of any given situation. Uneasy feelings and a preoccupation with believing that somehow thoughts can impact the health or lives of others, including themselves. This magical thinking causes distress for those living with these experiences.
Sometimes cognitive behavioural therapy can assist those with the disorder to formulate alternative coping mechanisms to help navigate these very difficult daily situations and bringing about positive change. Although this type of therapy is not effective for everyone. If this is the case, please don’t lose heart. There are many things you can do to aid and improve your daily life. Self-help is an option for those living with this condition, which they can easily access through websites such as Kind to Mind. Furthermore, some research has shown that hydration, improvement in sleep patterns, exercise and small dietary changes can help to improve and maintain the mind and body. The links titled ‘Tips for OCD self-care' and Kind to Mind’s ‘self-care worksheet’ are particularly helpful and are each only 1-minute reads. It is important that material is easily digestible and accessible for when you need it the most.
The materials I have accessed and selected, I have found to be particularly engaging and hopefully useful to you. Please see the links to access further support below:
Unhelpful thinking habits.
Psychology Tools: Guide to Living with Anxiety and Worry amidst global uncertainty.
Tips for OCD Self Care – Living with OCD