OCD / Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is often misrepresented or misinterpreted by a wide range of media influences. Many people often forget the compulsive side of the disorder and what it really is. Below we'll outline and point out some important parts to help reach a better understanding to the matter.
What separates OCD from other behaviours (such as liking things to be organised) is the psychological state its victims experience. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder that can cause people to have reoccurring unwanted thoughts and sensations. It can trigger unhealthy behaviour patterns and interfere with everyday life. People with OCD feel driven to carry out compulsive behaviours or unwanted routines, if not accomplished sufferers can experience great distress or anxiety.
People with the disorder can feel a strong sense of shame about their compulsions, which can consequently lead them to keep it a secret from associates. Ultimately worsening the matter at hand, as it can lead to delaying diagnosis and treatment.
What does OCD really feel like?
For me, it’s an ever-present nagging feeling that something is just ‘not right.’ I can never really, truly ‘make it right.’ I have to learn to live with the all-consuming feeling of mental discomfort.
Although OCD is commonly associated with the constant washing of hands or the need to organise things, many of these ideas are misunderstood or misrepresented. OCD is centered towards keeping something in a certain way, rather than just keeping something neat or ‘perfect’. It is a heterogeneous disorder, meaning that it manifests differently in different individuals.
Symptoms of diagnosed OCD are generally sorted into behavioural, mood and psychological aspects, some common behaviours include:
- An intense desire for cleanliness or order (e.g placing objects in a symmetrical order)
- Repeated or ritualistic behaviours and thoughts (e.g repeating certain words, counting objects)
- Compulsive hoarding of belongings
- Unresolved and generally irrational fear
- Uncharacteristic depression and anxiety
A common misunderstanding is that people who like to clean or organise excessively have OCD, although that isn't completely wrong, it is a misrepresentation as there are more sides to the matter. If identified and, there is effective treatment that can help patients to return to their everyday lifes and prevent it from worsening.
Media portrayal of OCD:
Although the disorder is often synonymous with hand-washing, organising, colour coordination and cleaning, as previously mentioned it is much more than that. If you look up OCD on google images, the majority of pictures depict mixed m&m's, one out of place pencil and even a strawberry with its seeds taken out (you get the idea). The stereotypes aren't wrong, but they leave out the big picture.
‘I love them, but I’m also crazy,’ she says, ‘but I love to know that the rest of the world is as crazy and organised-obsessed as I am. You say O.C.D. is a disease, but I say it’s a blessing’ - Khloé Kardashian
I think this speaks for itself. Another incorrect portrayal is the usage of "I'm so OCD" on social media, we forget that OCD is a disorder, not a description. When celebrities misuse the term, it spreads quickly and impacts the media too, influencing a wide range of people. Some people misunderstand the condition and can not distinguish it from a quirk, failing to realise how the actual condition can really disrupt someone's life. I don't have it, but I can relate on a personal level and it's tiring to see those things. Perhaps it isn't their fault, but misusing it and making the topic seem so trivial is deeply unnerving.
Further statistics and triggers:
Approximately 2.3% of the population between ages 18- 54 suffers from OCD, which out ranks mental disorders such as: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or panic disorder. In the U.S., approximately 3.3 million people have OCD, of which you have 0.3 to 1% of paediatric population and 2% of adult population.
In America alone, more than 3 million people are diagnosed and more than 1 in 50 people are affected worldwide. Stress itself does not trigger OCD but witnessing or becoming involved in a traumatic event (e.g traffic accident) can trigger an onset. However, a definitive cause has yet to be identified. It is believed that OCD is likely to be triggered by a range of factors; genetic, neurobiological, behavioural, cognitive or environmental (may be combined). More theories can be sourced here: Obsessive compulsive disorder (UK)
Strategies to help improve the symptoms of OCD include:
- Accepting the trigger - not avoiding the situation
- Redirecting attention from the triggering scenario (like taking a walk, reading or listening to calming music)
- Recording down the reasons for your anxiety or fear regarding the situation
- Recognising and trying to prevent the OCD urge upon the onset of compulsive symptoms
- Resisting behaviour caused by OCD (e.g resist checking the oven multiple times)
Overall, after all of this extensive research, turns out there was a surprising amount of information I myself didn't know. Hopefully this has helped you readers reach a better understanding of the matter. If you or anyone else around has shown symptoms, reach out as soon as possible to reliable medical professions/support (e.g Beyond blue). One more thing, don't misportray what it is, cheers!
If anyone have any thoughts or opinions, feel free to leave a comment below.
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