OCD: Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Do I have a terminal illness? What is wrong with me? Am I sick? Likely not but that doesn’t mean health anxiety isn’t a ‘headache’.
It’s the second semester of school in 2001, the exciting years of a school boy, where a frivolous mind produces the greatest of ideas.
The medical system in Sri Lanka, which is beyond excellent at present was a tad below par in the psychological sector. According to a leading psychologist in the country who wishes to remain anonymous.
Sanity and control of anxiety is generally not an issue up until adolescent. That’s when most issues occur. The chemical Serotonin, an important chemical and neurotransmitter in the human body, which helps regulate mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function plays a significant role here. Generally, Serotonin is created in the intestines and the brain of the human body. This chemical is what keeps us all ‘happy-go-lucky’.
“Anxiety is a strange emotion, in-fact it’s one of the strangest of human emotions,” Says Dr. Mohd’ Adnan, Psychologist of Taylor’s University Malaysia. He emphasizes that sometimes Serotonin production in certain individuals is not adequately produced, resulting in a form of mild depression. “In most cases, these depressive states can be reversed with serotonin-based drugs,” says Dr. Adnan. Both doctors stated that this condition is not something to be overly concerned about as 80% or so of the population is affected with some form of health anxiety, notably a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In some case the body adapts to the drug after a while and increases its natural production of Serotonin, resulting in the drug no longer being needed.
The challenge however, is identifying that one is affected by OCD, as in most cases people tend to misread the symptoms for either basic habitual patterns or mannerisms. Another matter for concern is the lack of educational awareness and stigma in society. “It takes a lot of courage and confidence for an individual to confide in another, let alone a medical practitioner and most often than not when the patient opens up s/he is either ridiculed or not taken seriously. This leads to patients trying to cope with it themselves and unfortunately, this is a vicious cycle that needs either Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or drugs to abate the condition” Says a leading psychologist in the country.
Repetitive State of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
You may at some point feel like you’ve overcome the condition but it will eventually relapse. This is due to the fluctuation of Serotonin levels within the body.
Types of OCD
Although there are many types of OCD, there below mentioned are the most common.
- Washers are afraid of contamination. They usually have cleaning or hand-washing compulsions.
- Checkers repeatedly check things (oven turned off, door locked, etc.) that they associate with harm or danger.
- Doubters and sinners are afraid that if everything isn’t perfect or done just right something terrible will happen, or they will be punished.
- Counters and arrangers are obsessed with order and symmetry. They may have superstitions about certain numbers, colours, or arrangements.
- Hoarders fear that something bad will happen if they throw anything away. They compulsively hoard things that they don’t need or use. They may also suffer from other disorders, such as depression, PTSD, compulsive buying, kleptomania, ADHD, skin picking, or tic disorders.
These types of compulsive disorders are generally associated with the below signs and symptoms.
Common obsessive thoughts in OCD
- Fear of being contaminated by germs or dirt or contaminating others
- Fear of losing control and harming yourself or others
- Intrusive sexually explicit or violent thoughts and images
- Excessive focus on religious or moral ideas
- Fear of losing or not having things you might need
- Order and symmetry: the idea that everything must line up “just right”
- Superstitions; excessive attention to something considered lucky or unlucky
Common compulsive behaviours in OCD
- Excessive double-checking of things, such as locks, appliances, and switches
- Repeatedly checking in on loved ones to make sure they’re safe
- Counting, tapping, repeating certain words, or doing other senseless things to reduce anxiety
- Spending a lot of time washing or cleaning
- Ordering or arranging things “just so”
- Praying excessively or engaging in rituals triggered by religious fear
- Accumulating “junk” such as old newspapers or empty food containers
The leading Doctor urges everyone especially parents with children who tend to show signs of compulsions such as ‘counting, checking or reassuring, taking notes etc.’ to seek either a Psychiatrist or a licensed Psychologist as it can have detrimental effects on their moods and lifestyle.
Remember: You’re not alone
Anxiety is very real. It’s an illness! It can make your body sick as well as your mind, and it’s time we start taking it as seriously as the illnesses that make us run to Google in the first place but remember there is hope. Take your time and seek a medical professional and take back your life, for it is the most precious gift in the world.
The professional opinion contributed towards this article were shared by Dr. Mohd’ Adnan, Psychologist, Taylor’s University, Malaysia & a leading renowned Psychiatrist (who wishes to remain anonymous), currently practising at the Durdans Hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
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