Obsessions and Compulsions



Sufferers of OCD have obsessive thoughts and then must engage in ritualistic behaviors in order to ease the symptoms or feel better. Getting help may feel like an unattainable dream. In reality though, there are so many great treatment programs for those suffering from OCD and it absolutely can get better!

Two great fictional examples of obsessive/compulsive behavior are Monk, from the TV show of the same name or Jack Nicholson’s character, Mr. Udall, in the movie “As Good As It Gets”. They repeatedly wash their hands, turn lights on and off or clean obsessively. Through their behaviors, you can almost see the thoughts being replayed over and over and over again in their head. Like these fictional characters, those who suffer from OCD most likely know that their behavior is irrational; however to get emotional relief, they must continue to engage in the behaviors that are repeated over and over again.

How Obsessions and Compulsions Can Harm Us

A good definition of an obsession and compulsion is this: A person gets a thought continually in his head, which then produces a great amount of stress and anxiety. In order to reduce the stress level and calm their thoughts, this person then engages in repeated behaviors, such as multiple hand washing or obsessive counting. This pattern starts over again, sometimes right away.

It is very normal for people to double-check that the stove was turned off or that they locked the door behind them as they left for the day. Although these behaviors are repeated, it is not extreme, nor is it a symptom of the anxiety produced by obsessive thoughts. The difference between the normal recheck of a locked door and the OCD behavior or locking-relocking the door multiple times is that the OCD behavior is irrational and has no bearing on whether the door is locked or not. The person with OCD may know with 100% certainty that the door is locked, but must check anyway in order to reduce their anxiety level. The average person will stop checking the door when he is sure it is locked.

The person with OCD lives with a great amount of stress and worry. Every day is consumed by irrational thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Unfortunately, although the compulsive behaviors help to alleviate stress in the short-term, this pattern of behavior can become so intrusive that a person’s life is consumed. A good example is a 25 year old woman who used to play tennis, hold a job and go to school. As her OCD behaviors ramp up, she first quits playing tennis. She simply fears the germs and decides to stay home and clean. Then, because of compulsive cleanliness behaviors, she no longer has time to study and quits school. As her behaviors get worse, she gets fired from her job because she no longer gets there in time. Over time, her life gets taken over by her disorder.

Effects of Obsessive and Compulsive Behaviors on the Family

OCD is not just devastating to the person who suffers from the disorder; the entire family suffers with them. Children who grow up with a parent suffering from OCD find that their parent is just not emotionally available. The disorder becomes the first priority and often, the children don’t go out to parks, play dates and usually don’t have friends over. Not only can the children be isolated from normal family activities, the family may also report that they have to “walk on eggshells” in order to keep the OCD sufferer from becoming aggravated or over-reacting.

It is sad and not all that uncommon for marriages to end when one partner is a sufferer of OCD. The irrationality of the disorder overwhelms the partner who is not suffering from it. Again, the person who is suffering from OCD often knows their behavior is irrational, but just can’t seem to stop the cycle. For the partner, it’s very difficult to understand why the sufferer can’t just stop the repeated behavior.

What makes things worse is that the person suffering from OCD may get to the point that they cannot hold a job or help perform the family chores. The sufferer may take hours to organizing a basket of laundry just perfectly leaving the other family member to pick up the remainder of the chores.

How Therapy Can Help

There is great success from treatment for obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Although it is always best to start treatment earlier rather than later, there is always hope for the OCD sufferer! Treatment may consist of individualized therapy, group therapy or family therapy and is intended to manage the thoughts that trigger the whole cycle and stop the compulsion before it stops. This disorder is very treatable and life can occur without constant anxiety. If you are suffering from obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive disorders, please reach out for help now!

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