Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD is a disorder characterized by obsessions, compulsions or both. An obsessive thought as described in psychiatry is quite different from the general usage of the word obsession in English. An obsessive thought is described as irrational and egodystonic (not in keeping with the person’s usual thinking style) besides being intrusive, excessive and repetitive. In other words, besides being preoccupied with something, it is also perceived as weird and strange. People can have obsessive images of some random object coming to their mind repetitively, seemingly serving no purpose. A lot of people have thoughts that they have not cleaned their hands/ house etc when they are aware that this is not the case. Many people have obsessive fears that they may cause harm to a near and dear one while in reality they do not want to do this at all.
A compulsion is something that is done in response to an obsession or something that is done in a ritualistic manner according to rigidly applied rules. For instance washing hands in response to the thought that hands are not clean; or, walking in a to and fro manner for a pre-designated number of times. Sometimes, the compulsions can be mental, that is, thinking of something to undo the effects of the obsessive thought.Although both obsessions and compulsions are likely present in people suffering from OCD, it is possible to have isolated obsessions or compulsions only.
Now let us come to the question. If one has weird/ absurd thoughts once in a while, does this mean he/ she has OCD?
No! A lot of otherwise normal people can have an occasional thought/ act that would qualify to be called an obsession and/or compulsion. This is not considered as OCD and it is not necessary that they will progress to a full blown OCD. In fact, in a lot of people they probably won’t progress at all!
So when should one seek help? If one finds that these thoughts are progressing, taking a lot of time, interfering with daily activities or producing considerable distress, then they might warrant seeing an expert.
So that was what I had to discuss this time around. Please let me know if there is anything that you want me to discuss in particular, by typing in the comments section below.
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