Overcoming OCD (Through Informed Intervention - Part 1

PART 1

I have a constant need to check and recheck after I have locked the front door. In some instances, I have locked our office door, gone and sat in the car, came back and rechecked them before going back to the car, and still had a niggling feeling that something is amiss. Maybe I have not locked it properly. I have a similar urge to check and recheck the gas supply knob before I leave the house and at times the windows and power supply connections.


When my son goes an exam at school, I make him check his bag 2-3 times to confirm that he has all the writing supplies and his identity card. I also verify with other moms if he is preparing for the right subject. For soccer class, the checklist changes but the rigor stays the same. What if he goes prepared for some other test or lands up on the field without his shin guards? My obsession to recheck drives him mad but I still do it. Mental health affects those around you.


Mobile phone, charger, wallet with card and cash, house keys, and a pair of reading glasses. I check them in my bag every single day before I leave the house and yet there are days when I feel I am missing something. Some days I check them again in the elevator after leaving the house.


I tried the OCD screening tool on the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) website. I checked 5 yes’s out of 21. I may not qualify as per the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria but something is triggering those obsessive thoughts in my mind and provoking the compulsive actions.


My husband has often asked me if I need therapy, or some other professional help to work through things. I have assured him that if things get worse and affect my normal day-to-day functioning or the lives of people around me, I will seek help. Meanwhile, I will try to work out some solutions to tackle these thoughts.


The challenge with mental health is family members are often unaware. It is not like fever that you can check using a thermometer and then offer some remedy. If families are aware of these mental health changes or abnormalities, they can intervene to help alleviate the condition.


Awareness is the greatest agent for change. ~ Eckhart Tolle


This series of posts will interest you if:

  1. You want to know what could be the probable causes of OCD

  2. The common signs to watch out for or seek help in case they do exist

  3. You want to learn a few coping mechanisms

Finally remember, trained practitioners such as psychiatrists and clinicians are the ideal person to help people with OCD to live a better life.

In the first part, I will discuss what is OCD. The second part will be on probable triggers of OCD and in the third part, I will share a few coping mechanisms to love with OCD.


What is OCD?

If you are here, you have a fair idea of what OCD is. It is made up of two components - obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions. The question is what is different in the brain function of an average person and one having OCD.


I had asked Consultant Neurologist Dr. Sharmila Changkakoti (MRCP (UK) Neurology and Internal Medicine) to break down this brain science for laypersons. She explains that the orbitofrontal cortex (part of the brain immediately behind our forehead), the basal ganglia, and the thalamus (both located deep inside the brain) play a key role in managing the cycle of the generation of a thought that leads to action.


In normal human beings, this cycle (or circuit) is short-lasting and can be overcome. Once the action is done, the thought ceases. The circuit in people with OCD goes into a loop spawning the obsessive thoughts which lead to repetitive compulsive actions. This sometimes occurs when the brain does not get enough of the chemical serotonin in the body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger). It affects our mood. Serotonin is responsible for carrying and delivering signals (“messages”) between the brain cells. Once it completes the job of delivering the message, it is absorbed (also known as reuptake) by the nerve cells.


OCD is the result of poor communication and feedback within the brain. That is why a thought keeps on occurring forcing the person to act again and again. A good level of serotonin keeps our body in a state of calm and control. Unless the body steadily produces serotonin, it can suffer from the effects of low serotonin such as depression and OCD. There are both natural and artificial means of maintaining serotonin in the body.

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