Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

This disorder is an anxiety disorder and consists of two characteristics: obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions

Are incessant recurring mental urges, images, or thoughts that sometimes feel intrusive, i.e. unwanted or inappropriate. They cause significant distress or anxiety. The thoughts, urges, or images are not just an excessive preoccupation with real-life problems.

The individual makes efforts to ignore or suppress these thoughts, urges, or images, or even to neutralize them with other thoughts or actions but they are incapable of doing so and they recognize the irrational nature of their problem. The individual understands that the thoughts, urges, or images come from their own mental activity and that they are not caused by the outside world.

Examples of obsessions:

• Contamination
Worrying about being contaminated by germs, microbes, or bacteria.

• Moral Doubts
Impression of having caused someone harm, being responsible for something.

• Excessive feelings of responsibility for the safety of others
Wondering if they’ve hurt someone with their car.

• Disproportionate concern for order and symmetry
Being disturbed by seeing asymmetrical lines in a table.

• Urges and actions that are violent and aggressive in nature
Afraid of attacking someone with a knife or harming themselves.

• Horrible sexual or religious thoughts
Images of committing horrible sexual or blasphemous acts.

Compulsions

These are repetitive behaviours or mental acts (praying, counting, silently repeating words) that the person feels driven to accomplish, in response to an obsession. Compulsions are often carried out based on certain rules that must be rigidly applied. Professionals refer to these rigid rules as rituals.

One or more rituals may be performed repetitively with the goal of reducing or neutralizing the level of anxiety or distress, or even to avoid a dreaded situation or event, connected to the obsessive thoughts.

Examples of obsessions:

• Checking
Checking that the door is locked, that the stove burners are turned off.

• Excessive washing, cleaning, or tidying
Excessive, repetitive washing of the hands or body. Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, such as a kitchen counter.

• Mental calculations
Doing calculations, repeating numbers or a phrase to prevent something bad from happening.

•Organizing, ordering, and symmetry
Making sure that pant pleats are centred at all times, folding clothing in a very specific manner and in a certain order, ensuring that the threads of a carpet’s fringe are parallel to one another.

• Avoir une saine alimentation.
Gathering and storing unusual quantities of items that have no monetary or sentimental value to the point where it may be difficult to enter or get around the house.

These behaviours or mental acts are intended to neutralize or reduce feelings of anxiety or distress or to avoid a dreaded event or situation. However, these behaviours or mental acts either have no realistic relation to the obsessions that the person is attempting to neutralize or are clearly excessive. The obsessions are often accompanied by a feeling of fear, disgust, or resignation.

 

The obsessions or compulsions set off a great feeling of distress and a considerable loss of time (taking more than an hour a day) for the individual, and they interfere significantly with their ability to function socially and professionally.

Treatment

Various methods may be required to treat anxiety disorders. At present, there are two major types of treatment that have been proven effective in treating anxiety disorders:  psychotherapy and medication.

According to some studies, the most effective way to treat anxiety disorders is to combine medication and psychological treatment. Each of these treatments is effective in its own way and may be used alone or in combination.

In addition to professional help, other factors associated with a healthy lifestyle may have a positive effect on the individual’s ability to manage their anxiety:

• Exercise regularly
Often, individuals suffering from anxiety stop exercising. However, exercise may give the person a feeling of well-being and help reduce anxiety.

• Avoid caffeine
There is caffeine in coffee, tea, chocolate, and some soft drinks. Caffeine may increase feelings of anxiety.

• Maintain a good balance between work, rest, and leisure

• Eat a healthy diet

N.B. This information is provided for information purposes only. Only licensed professionals can make a diagnosis. If you are concerned about your mental health or that of a loved one, we encourage you to consult a professional.