Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: When You Cannot Stop Intrusive Thoughts and Rituals

OCD Since his early twenties, Joe was often plagued by seemingly senseless fears. For awhile, he had been terrified of getting sick and spent several hours a day washing his hands to be sure they were germ-free. The washing took a lot of time and made his hands red and raw. But he felt too embarrassed to tell anyone. Joe, a high school English teacher praised by students and colleagues alike, finally decided to confide in his doctor when his thoughts became more frightening. He was constantly afraid that he had run someone over in his car. His heightened anxiety and the pressing need to return to the site of the "accident" to check if the person was okay was making him late for work. He was also unable to focus on his teaching. The doctor suspected Joe had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A psychiatrist confirmed the diagnosis and started Joe on treatment that has significantly reduced his fears and enabled him to return to his successful teaching career.

How Do You Know It Is OCD?

Most people occasionally get stuck in a thought, worry over and over about a particular problem, get totally preoccupied with something they are doing, or triple-check to make sure they locked their house or car door. However, that is not OCD. The hallmark of OCD is becoming so stuck in an unwanted thought or repetitive action that your daily life is disrupted. Other symptoms that suggest OCD are if the preoccupations or compulsions add up to an hour or more each day and are very distressing.OCD is a condition that is characterized by intrusive, unwanted, recurrent, and unpleasant thoughts (obsessions) that cause anxiety and repetitive, ritualistic behaviors (compulsions). Victims feel driven to carry out these obsessions to reduce their anxiety, but the compulsions only provide short-term and often incomplete relief before an obsession strikes again.Although the thoughts and behaviors in OCD may seem "crazy," people with OCD are not "crazy." They are aware that their obsessions and compulsions are excessive and senseless. They do not want to act them out, but they have little or no control. As a result, they may feel embarrassed, hide their symptoms, and remain alone and unsupported with their disorder.

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