What do we think of when we hear ‘OCD’? Light switches being frantically turned off and on again? Hands being scrubbed raw for imaginary dirt? Whatever springs to mind when you hear the word, we all have our own presumptions about what it means.
The thing is, OCD is an umbrella term, it covers a huge number of different obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours and no one experiences the disorder in quite the same way. The only definitive explanation that can really be given is that OCD stems from an intense fear of something bad happening.
Where do these bad things come from? Well they exist all around us. Whether it’s the news with its stories of terror or social media with its unrealistic depictions of how our lives should be, or perhaps just our own individual daily stresses, we don’t live in a world that promotes mental wellbeing.
OCD occurs when we take these bad things and turn them into a specific, threatening scenario. If someone were to experience a severe illness, they may later develop OCD based upon contamination. Or if someone experienced a painful or unstable relationship, they may later suffer from some form of relationship OCD. The list could go on, but ultimately we are a product of our own personal experiences.
Once OCD sufferers have formed an unpleasant scenario in their mind, they will perform compulsive behaviours to try to prevent it. Those with OCD don’t turn a light switch on and off twenty times for the fun of it, they do it because they believe it is a way to control scary uncertainties. We never know if an unfortunate event may occur to us, but compulsive actions help the sufferer to feel a sense of control and a sense that they have somehow prevented the likelihood of this unfortunate event.
OCD, and mental illness more generally, needs to be taken seriously and not undermined. By taking the time to understand why people feel or behave the way they do, we can work towards creating a society that promotes mental wellbeing instead of threatening it. OCD is arguably a pretty normal reaction to an insane world, wanting to prevent danger is natural and not something to be judged or ashamed of. It is a curable disorder but it does take time, patience and understanding. I hope this article has helped you to understand OCD better and recognise some of the signs if you think you or a friend may be suffering from it.
If you were affected by any of the content in this article please see below:
Ring Samaritans on: 116 123. This is a 24/7 service where you can speak to a councillor on the phone about anything that is on your mind.
Seek therapy in your local area. Most areas offer some form of free counselling through the NHS so don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it. Recovering from OCD or anxiety often does require some form of professional help.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if there is anything you would like to discuss regarding this article. Please note I am not trained in mental health care so I am unable to give professional advice. However, I am always happy to talk to you and discuss your thoughts and experiences.