Food for Thought: What do you know about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a disorder defined by recurrent unwelcome thoughts (obsessions) and repeated behaviors (compulsions) that OCD sufferers feel driven to perform.

People know their obsessions and compulsions are irrational, yet they have little control over them.

OCD is the fourth most common neuropsychiatric illness in the U.S.

One in 40 adults and one in 200 children suffer from OCD at some point in their life. If a person has a parent or sibling with obsessive compulsive disorder their chance of developing OCD is increased. The risk for developing OCD is greatest from childhood to middle adulthood.

Anxiety is the most prominent symptom of OCD. For example, a person may have an overall sense that something terrible will happen if they donít follow through with a particular ritual, such as repeatedly checking to see whether the doors are locked. If they donít perform the ritual, they may have immediate anxiety or a nagging sense of incompleteness.

The rituals or behaviors become time consuming and have a significant impact on their daily life. If a particular fear involves unfamiliar situations, it is possible for sufferers to become so obsessed by their fears that they stop going outside of their home. Quality of life can be substantially lowered by OCD since it can greatly affect a personís ability to work and have relationships.

Common symptoms of OCD are obsessive thoughts such as:

* Fear of dirt or germs or over concern about body smells/secretions or the proper functioning of the body

* Over concern with order, neatness and exactness

* Fear of thinking bad thoughts or doing something embarrassing

* Constantly thinking of certain sounds, words, or numbers or a preoccupation with counting or checking

* Constant need for approval or the need to apologize

* Fear that something terrible will happen or fear of harming themselves or someone else.

Common compulsions are :

* Frequently washing hands, showering, or brushing teeth or the overuse of items to hide body smells

* Constantly cleaning, straightening and ordering certain objects

* Repeatedly checking zippers and buttons on clothing

* Checking lights, appliances, or doors again and again to be sure they are turned off or closed

* Repeating certain physical activities, such as sitting down and getting up from a chair

* Hoarding objects, such as newspapers

* Asking the same question or saying the same thing over and over

* Avoiding public places or taking extreme measures to prevent harm to themselves or others

* Religious rituals, such as constant silent praying

People with OCD may be demoralized or depressed. They may have intense feelings of anxiety, discomfort or disgust.

Other symptoms that may be related are plucking out strands of hair or eyebrows/eyelashes, preoccupation with a minor or imaginary body defect, severe nail biting or unfounded fears of a serious illness.

People suffering from OCD can be helped with a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

ó Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls.

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