Many studies investigate the intricacies of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and today what causes, triggers, and helps this mental health condition is better understood than it was in the past. OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead a person to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions).
Washing the hands after leaving the bathroom and before eating are sensible hygiene precautions that everyone should take. However, people with OCD tend to wash their hands far more often than the average, eventually irritating skin and possibly causing infection. People with OCD may compulsively or repeatedly clean their homes, as well. Excessive cleanliness is the compulsion caused by a specific fear (obsession), such as a fear of germs.
Many people make a point of checking to see if they have locked the front door of their house properly before going to bed at night. For someone with OCD, however, security measures can become an obsessive issue. A person with OCD might be compelled to check that a door is locked repeatedly when leaving and entering the house.
People with OCD can appear to be miserly with their money, as this is one area of life over which control is possible. A person with OCD might count their money or check in their wallet repeatedly. Some people with OCD also begin hoarding free items to save money.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can cause a person to repeat themselves often. This may take the form of repeating requests at work or in their personal lives, to ensure they maintain control over their situation. They may be concerned that the person to whom they are speaking did not understand what they have asked, and this fear of misunderstanding prompts them to reiterate. Repetition in people with OCD can also take the form of writing and re-writing notes or documents, or reading the same content over and over.
People with OCD may regularly seek validation or reassurance for their words and actions. An individual may ask the passenger in their car to double-check for pedestrians at every corner, or whether his or her hands look clean after repeated washings. This symptom of OCD can be frustrating for other people, as well as the person with the condition. Experts say providing the reassurance the person seeks can be detrimental because it validates an obsession.
Tidiness is another characteristic that can be praiseworthy, but OCD can take this quality to an extreme. A tidy person makes sure that all the papers on their desks are in neat piles, that pens and pencils are in their holder, and the remains of the last snack are cleared away. Someone with OCD might spend many minutes or hours ensuring that loose pages in a tray are perfectly aligned. They also might keep taking out and returning the pens and pencils to their holder.
Many people experience negative or disturbing thoughts at times, and the directions our minds take can be difficult or impossible to control. Some people with OCD, however, may feel strongly that they should be able to control these thoughts. Since lack of control is a major concern for people with OCD, a preoccupation with controlling one's own mind can cause extreme anxiety.
Depression can stem from OCD. People with OCD often realize they have a medical condition and may be overwhelmed thinking and worrying about their illness. This can lead to anxiety and depression, which may, in turn, exacerbate other symptoms.
Sometimes people with OCD display a pattern of repeated body movements or sounds, developing what doctors describe as motor tics. These include actions such as persistent eye blinking, shoulder shrugging, or head nodding. This issue also finds expression in vocal tics such as repeatedly clearing the throat or sniffing.
OCD can also affect eating habits in a variety of ways. It may cause an individual to change his or her usual diet. For instance, a person with OCD may stop eating what was once their favorite food due to fears the product has become contaminated. He or she might wash a food many times before eating it or insist it be prepared in a particular way.
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