Engaging in repetitive or ritualistic behavior from time to time may be common occurrence, but for people with obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), it is a nonstop merry-go-round ride, quite like playing a broken record, round and round, over and over again. Types of OCD are numerous; the symptoms serve to disrupt or interfere with an otherwise smooth-running day, where responses or actions are taken over by compulsions that are uncontrollable, unwanted, and unstoppable.
OCD is both an anxiety driven or brain disorder that can occur at any age, but most prominently between the ages of 10-12 years, or late teens into adulthood. Heredity plays a partial role in obsessive-compulsive behaviors, as it tends to run in families, especially if symptoms occur in childhood. When such disorders manifest in adulthood, it is usually brought about by life stresses or illness. Scientists have compared the brains of people with OCD to those without symptoms of the disease, and definitely, ex-rays show quite a different picture from the norm.
Obsessive-compulsive disorders can be divided into either obsessive or compulsive behaviors. An obsession generally deals with ongoing thoughts, ideas, or images that are involuntary. The mind reverts to playing these thoughts continually on a daily basis, until they become distracting or disturbing. Compulsions, on the other hand, deal with behaviors that compel a person to respond or react in a specific manner, performing the same ritual repetitively, much like rewinding and replaying the same video frame over and over again.
The irony of compulsions is to relieve the brain of anxiety or fears, yet at the same time relief is short-lived, as the action does not get rid of the obsession; but exacerbates the scenario by causing more anxiety; and making the obsession more pronounced. At the same time, obsessive-compulsive behaviors are very demanding, taking up a great deal of time to act out, when the person should be doing more important and valuable activities, such as work, school, or taking care of family.
Types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders:
Washing and Cleaning
One of the more common OCD behaviors is the need to be forever washing and cleaning. Merely touching a surface without wearing any gloves or having paper towels for a buffer will send an obsessive-compulsive into a tailspin. People with such obsessions are afraid of contamination by germs, disease, or the threat of contagions. They are repulsed by the idea of filth from human secretions like urine or feces. They have a fear of contamination by exposure to asbestos, radiation, etc., or contact with household/workplace chemicals or solvents.
( This writer's sister is obsessed with clean toilets. At her place of work, she has an arsenal of cleaning products, with the required rubber gloves. Whenever a customer uses the public restroom, she can be seen immediately afterwards with brush and cleanser in hand, to scrub away at the offending mess. Lately, this compulsion towards cleanliness and germs has been taken a step further. When there is a party at her house, she no longer puts out the hanging hand towel. She has replaced that tradition with a roll of paper towels, and a waste basket directly below, for better sanitary procedures when people use the bathroom.)
Along the same lines, people with this type of OCD believe in cleaning or cleansing themselves to get rid of contaminants. Therefore, they may shower, bathe, brush their teeth, or groom excessively during the course of a day, resulting in ritualistic behaviors that take up great amounts of time. A person can use such benign ingredients as soap or baking soda to get rid of itchy skin, only to scrub away so ferociously that the skin is irritated and the problem made worse by such obsessive actions.
Safety for oneself and/or for others is the motivation behind people who obsessively and compulsively check and recheck to see that ovens are not turned on; irons and kettles are unplugged; lights are turned on or off; windows and doors locked tightly. This security measure may prudent in day-to-day running of a household, but when routine is taken over by compulsion, where something is performed many times in excess, the person no longer has control over this frenetic behavior. This fear or insecurity about potential harm is rarely allayed, as the person seldom feels safe or secure, even after checking.
The bad news is, inordinate amounts of time spent rechecking appliances and safe holds take away from precious relaxation time at home. At the same time, this ritualistic maneuver builds both more stress and tension, instead of providing peace and tranquility within one's sanctuary. A single woman living by herself may feel very vulnerable: along with having a security alarm, she may also be obsessive-compulsive about going around the house many times, checking and rechecking doors and windows to make sure they are firmly locked.
Counting and Arranging
This kind of obsessive-compulsive behavior deals with trying to have control over one's life by having orderliness, exactness, precision and symmetry in one's surroundings. People who are counters and arrangers like to have things in their "rightful" places, not one item out of place or it disturbs them to a point of agitation.They aim for perfection in their everyday lives by having an environment that is both neat and tidy.
This kind of behavior might appear to be a 21st century phenomenon, as Americans are consummate consumers, and like to indulge in retail therapy quite frequently. However, when the need to buy, collect, keep, and hoard clutters up the house to the extent where it affects the quality of life, there is definitely a problem. Reality programs are based on this.
Hoarders lack the ability to throw things out, even when material goods are not needed nor used. For people who hoard obsessively, these things or "stuff" represent a need to know or to remember. Death of a loved one often results in retaining their artifacts to remember them by. Throwing out such items would mean forgetting the memory of the deceased, so they hang on to memorabilia in the hopes of keeping alive their memory of a loved one.
Some hoarders believe if they throw something out, something bad may happen to them. It is almost like keeping something in order to ward off evil spirits, so to speak. People who refuse to part with print media such as newspapers/magazines have a concern with the need to know information or remember important events. They tend to focus on evenness or exactness in contending with life situations. They fear if they throw something out, they may lose or forget important information they need to hang on to, for future reference. ( This has been seen in the writer's life where a friend has a room totally devoted to the hoarding of old newspapers. This person is unable to throw out newspapers, dating from 1985, mainly because he is afraid he might inadvertently throw out a paper containing important information he may have missed while previously reading it. Therefore the room is cluttered with old, dusty, yellowed newsprint.)
Scrupulosity is symptomatic of a person obsessed with religion, being overly conscious of offending God, through cursing or blasphemy. He/she focuses excessively on right or wrong, is very concerned with issues of morality, prays a great deal, or confesses continually to get reassurance that he/she is on the right path to righteousness.
Unwanted Sexual Thoughts
A person with this type of obsessive-compulsive disorder has perverse sexual thoughts/images about himself/herself or others. He/she thinks obsessively about homosexuality or aggressive sexual behavior toward others. This type of disorder can be linked to profiles of serial killers or rapists and their mindset.
When a person repeatedly reads, writes, or does a physical activity over and over again; like going in and out the door; getting up and down from a chair; combs one's hair in front of the mirror all the time; denotes obsessive-compulsive behavior. Blinking, touching, or tapping on a surface for no particular reason is representative of OCD. Counting or repeating certain words repeatedly are ways of reducing anxiety for a person with OCD. While this action may seem senseless and weird to other people, it serves to protect obsession-ridden people from inward fears and anxiety.
Only trained professionals can diagnoses obsessive-compulsive disorders. They look for three things when examining their patients. Firstly, a person must have an obsession; secondly, exhibit compulsive behavior; thirdly, this behavior takes up a great deal of time and gets in the way of a person doing other more important and worthwhile endeavors. As one can see, this writer is surrounded by several people with obsessive-compulsive behaviors, so OCD is not as uncommon as one would believe.