What is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is a severe mental health illness that is often miss-interpreted and misunderstood. OCD hand washing is one of the many symptoms the illness can present.
Some regard being extra tidy or liking something done a certain way, as being 'OCD', but the obsessive-compulsive disorder is more than a personality trait or a way of conducting oneself. OCD is an incredibly invasive illness that significantly affects a suffers life and general wellbeing.
OCD can become apparent in individuals of any age group. However, most diagnoses happen in young teenagers.
It is estimated that there are around 3 million suffers of OCD in the US alone, so it is more common the many would hope to believe.
As a general 'rule', OCD is characterized by a cycle rooted in fear/anxiety.
- Obsessive thought pattern
- Feelings of Anxiety
- Compulsive behavior response
- Temporary relief
Sufferers of OCD can go through this cycle countless times every day, especially in those who have a ritual of handwashing and who's OCD is rooted in cleanliness.
First, they might touch something or brush their hands up against something that their mind tells them is dirty (even though it probably isn't.) This is the obsessive thought.
Then anxious thoughts start to kick in, which commences a hunt for a solution to the dirty hands and a way to reduce the panicky feelings.
The solution comes in the form of compulsion, which is naturally a thorough hand washing.
They might feel some temporary relief, but it is only a matter of time before they feel like they need to clean their hands again. It is also common for sufferers of OCD to repeat their compulsion multiple times until it feels 'right.'
The reason why OCD can spiral out of control and worsen so quickly is that compulsions do nothing to address the root cause of the OCD and actually worsen the condition if left untreated.
Most sufferers of OCD can be categorized under 1 or more of the following:
Hoarders - Who fear that something bad might happen if they throw items away
Doubters/sinners - People who believe if things are not in their right place, they will be personally punished.
Washers - People who fear contamination: dirt, poison, chemicals, etc. These often ritualize excessive cleaning.
Checkers - People who repeatedly check and re-check things such as door locks, light switches, and electronic goods.
Counters/arrangers - These are the people that find have an obsession with symmetry, numbers, and the arrangement objects or thoughts.
Each subcategory comes with its own set of symptoms, although many sufferers of OCD experience multiple symptoms:
- Fear of being harmed by germs or chemicals.
- Fear of harming themselves or others.
- Unwanted sexual or violent thoughts.
- Radical religious/moral views.
- Fear of losing out.
- Desire order and symmetry to an unnecessary degree.
- Particular attention on superstitions.
As well as stand-alone symptoms, there are also common compulsive behaviors that those with OCD tend to show:
- Excessive checking of items, such as door locks.
- Checking on loved ones far too regularly to make sure that they're safe.
- Repeating certain 'ticks,' such as tapping or counting.
- Spending a lot of time washing and cleaning.
- Re-arranging objects for no apparent reason.
- Praying out religious fear or guilt.
- Accumulating clutter and useless junk
What Can Cause Obsessive Behaviors?
To date, there is no unconditional cause of OCD. Some believe that OCD is the result of genetic/hereditary factors; others consider it to be a result of environmental influences.
The most considerate theory is based around the combination of both; a person's genetics might set them up, or make them more susceptive to the development of OCD, but particular environmental factors will ultimately be the trigger that causes the illness to form.
There is a lot of research out there questioning the cause of OCD, and a lot of debate surrounding the answer. We may never know for sure what the true cause of OCD is, but in the meantime seeking out professional help will be the best way to decipher the root cause of your own, personal disorder.
OCD And Hand Washing.
OCD and hand washing often go hand in hand (no pun intended.) When there are concerns surrounding cleanliness or contamination, the most common compulsion is to clean and try to remove the threat.
Some people who hand wash as a result of OCD can find themselves in front of the sink up to and beyond 1000 times a day.
Excessive hand washing might not sound like the worst thing in the world, but the desire is not to have clean hands; it's a feeling of absolute must, and if the hands are not cleaned, it can feel like the world is closing in, and nothing but imminent danger awaits.
Other Behaviors Of OCD.
The early signs of OCD can often present themselves as seemingly ordinary behaviors. Sufferers of OCD may find that:
- They feel uncomfortable if they are unable to do something they desire.
- They might find it difficult to compromise or 'make do.'
- They can show stressful behavior traits when doing everyday tasks such as driving or cooking.
- Can avoid certain situations such as eating out or other social events.
- Might be reluctant to try new things.
- They can often feel uncomfortable when there is a change in routine or a plan.