Some of us might blame our neat-freak tendencies on OCD.
What many people might not realize is that cleanliness is not the only sign of OCD. There are hundreds of known variants of the disorder, and some can sneak under the radar if not analyzed by a professional.
Experts have also discovered links between OCD, sleep deprivation, and anxiety.
In this article we explore some of the more unusual side effects of OCD, and how we can manage them to improve our quality of life.
The More Unusual Side Effects Of OCD
Common Signs of OCD
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is when we experience recurring, intrusive thoughts that cause us anxiety. They trigger us to act out compulsive behaviors. These behaviors temporarily ease our anxiety, even though they may seem completely illogical.
OCD behavior can be classified as an excessive or ritualistic need to perform an action. Some common compulsions can be:
- Cleaning, disinfecting, showering, bathing, or washing
- Checking appliances
- Returning to a specific location to check if an object is still there
- Counting movements, objects, or people
- Re-reading or re-writing
- Re-ordering items into a specific formation or layout
- Emotional attachment to certain colors, numbers, or letters.
Excessive, repetitive, or ritualistic performance of these types of activities is very different from ‘being forgetful.’
Most of us at some point will need to return to our house to check that we turned off the oven or locked the front door.
OCD is characterized by a persistent, long-term need to do these things. People with OCD have not forgotten to do something. They have a mental disorder which requires them to perform the activity repeatedly to ease their anxiety and stress.
OCD sufferers may also feel an overwhelming need to repeat the entire ritual if they get it ‘wrong.’
The More Unusual Symptoms of OCD
Although the symptoms we’ve listed above can be quite common, there are some that threaten our mental or physical health.
These can include:
- Ritualized eating behaviors—eating or avoiding certain foods, refusing to eat foods which have touched each other, or chewing no more than a certain number of times.
- Trichotillomania—ritualized pulling or plucking of hair, eyebrows, eyelashes or body hair.
- Ritualized self-harm or self-mutilation
- Fear that you will hurt yourself or others, or checking to see if you have done this.
- Viewing or imagining violent or disturbing images.
- Hoarding objects of no sentimental, financial, or practical value.
The more unusual symptoms of OCD may have an element of magical thinking. This is where we believe our repetitive behavior has an effect on the safety or wellbeing of ourselves or other people, or that it will lead to a specific outcome.
How Are OCD and Sleep Deprivation Are Linked
One significant factor in anxiety and OCD is sleep. Chronic partial sleep deprivation could be a cause for increased OCD symptoms, and is also a known risk factor in developing anxiety and depression.
In one study, researchers found that OCD sufferers experience similar sleep patterns to people who suffer from depression and chronic stress disorders. They also discovered that OCD patients woke up more in the night, took longer to reach the REM sleep stage, and had shortened REM latency.
Managing Sleep Deprivation
Understanding how lack of sleep affects your health can be scary. Fortunately, in most cases it can be easily remedied in the short-term. Long-term, there are many steps we can take to improve our sleep hygiene.
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants 3 hours before bed.
- Avoid alcohol before bed.
- Limit your daytime nap to 20-30 minutes.
- Practice mindfulness to help sleep—meditation, yoga, or tai chi are good options.
- Choose the right foods.
- Expose yourself to natural light.
- Create a good sleep environment.
- Establish a night routine.
Now that we have a clearer understanding of the link between OCD, sleep deprivation, and anxiety—it’s important to take action.
If you are suffering from OCD and sleep deprivation, or anxiety is stopping you from sleeping, it is important to talk to your doctor. The key is for suffers to learn how to stop anxiety, fear, and obsession from controlling their quality of life, and professional support can be pivotal in achieving that successfully.