What is OCD?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviors an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.
Most people have obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors at some point in their lives, but that does not mean that we all have some OCD. In order for a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder to be made, this cycle of obsessions and compulsions must become so extreme that it consumes a lot of time and gets in the way of important activities that the person values.
What does OCD feel like?
Imagine that your mind got stuck on a certain thought or image.
Then, imagine this thought or image got replayed in your mind over and over again no matter what you did. You don’t want these thoughts. It feels involuntary. It feels like there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
These incessant thoughts create intense feelings of anxiety. Anxiety is your brain’s alarm system to warn you of danger, and OCD occurs when this alarm system breaks and sees harmless things as threats. And even if you logically know that this fear isn’t reasonable, it still feels very real and intense.
Why would you have these feelings if they weren’t true? Feelings don’t lie, right? Unfortunately, if you have OCD, they can lie. If you have OCD, the warning system in your brain is not working correctly. Your brain is telling you that you are in danger when, in fact, you are not. A specialized obsessive compulsive disorder therapist can help you recognize these lies and manage your unhealthy compulsive behaviors.*
*Adapted from The International OCD Foundation’s “What You Need to Know About Obsessive Compulsion Disorder”.