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Mental Health: What Is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

  By posted Dec 14th 2012
Healthy Living

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

 

Anyone who's seen As Good As It Gets has a basic idea about what an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is, broadly. "My son keeps on and on washing his hands in the bathroom,” said a confused father to Dr Kersi Chavda at the P. D. Hinduja Hospital & MRC, Mumbai. The father came to consult the doctor for his 12 year-old-son. "He has to wash in a particular way, and has to count the number of times he soaps himself. He refuses to open doors holding door handles, unless he has a tissue in his hand, he thinks the handle is always dirty. Again, after locking the doors at night, he locks and unlocks them seven times, and then comes and repeats the entire process to his mother verbally; the parents were literally going crazy." Dr Kersi's diagnosis confirms the problem to be Obsessive Compulsive disorder.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the second most common psychological disorder nowadays. Part of the spectrum of anxiety disorders, it can drive people to anger and despair, wreck marriages, and be a source of sadness to the care-giver as well.

 

Dr Kersi explains Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: "An obsession is a recurrent thought, idea or image which causes anxiety, for example 'My hands are dirty', this anxiety causes the person to do whatever he can to alleviate the feeling and often in the process of reducing his anxiety, he finds that he has done a particular recurrent action which has helped. This recurrent action then becomes the "compulsion", and almost invariably is ritualistic, i.e. it has to be performed in a particular manner. Thus 'I have to wash my finger tips, then the palms, then up to the wrist and then my arms' becomes a compulsion every time the patient head to the tap. One would continue the action until he/she is convinced that they have done it their way."

 

The commonest Obsessive Compulsive Disorder involves cleanliness, checking or counting and religion and often the tenor of these images themselves can be very frightening to the person concerned. "No one enjoys having this problem. Often one is aware that the thoughts and actions do not make sense, but there is still tremendous resistance to change and control of the ritualistic actions,” adds Dr Kersi.

 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Treatment includes relaxation techniques, delayed gratification, supportive therapy and the use of specific medication which break the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder cycle. In severe intractable cases, psycho-surgery is performed.

*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images

 

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