Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by the presence of unwanted thoughts and behaviour patterns known as obsessions and compulsions. A person diagnosed with OCD will have displayed persistent patterns in their thoughts/ behaviours that affect their daily life for at least 1 hour a day.
People who have OCD usually start showing symptoms in childhood or early adulthood. Some people recover completely with treatment, which usually involves a combination of pharmaceutical medications and behavioural therapy, for others OCD can become manageable, where the obsessions/compulsions no longer affect their daily life to such an extent.
Adults who suffer with OCD usually know what they are doing is ‘unusual’ or ‘strange’ but can not control the overwhelming urges to carry out the thoughts. Children, however, tend not to know the behaviour is not ‘normal’.
There are many different ways OCD can present itself; the most common obsessions/compulsions types are:
Checkers believe that great harm will be brought to someone, either themselves or others, if they do not carry out their obsessions. Examples of these would be making sure all the plugs are switched off, or all the doors are locked. Checkers often develop a complex routine of what they check and in what order.
Hoarders tend to collect things that others would consider of little value. They tend not to be able to throw things out, therefore their houses may be considered ‘cluttered’ due to their collections.
Obsessionals turn to repetitive actions and thoughts such as counting, repeating words or phrases in order to distract themselves from negative unwanted thoughts of violence and harming others.
Orderers like everything in its place, everything must be ‘just right’, they are perfectionists. They can spend hours arranging things until they are exactly right and if it is moved they can become very agitated and distressed.
Washers and cleaners
Washers and cleaners fear dirt or germs, either for themselves or for others. For example touching the taps may cause infection or disease so they need to use something so not to come into direct contact with it. They will obsessively wash, sometimes to the point of causing damage to their skin.