By: Davine Holness
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder which has gained publicity from shows like “Monk” and “Girls,” as well as movies like “The Aviator” and “As Good as it Gets.” OCD is characterized by intrusive thoughts causing uneasiness or fear (obsessions), accompanied by ritualized behaviors to alleviate that anxiety (compulsions). Everyone has their quirks, and superstition is common. However, an individual may be diagnosed with OCD if these symptoms fall out of the normal range of worry and superstition, if he or she is spending a lot of time on these behaviors, or if the symptoms have a significant negative impact on the individual’s performance and quality of life. While people with the disorder share this basic framework, OCD comes in several different symptom subsets. Some are less common and harder to recognize as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder than others. Here are some of the different types in which OCD presents itself.
Washing is one familiar kind of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, in which the affected individual fears contamination from some object or person. This behavior is way out of proportion with the actual danger presented by the substance or individual that is the object of obsession. Due to an obsession that contact will have an extreme adverse outcome, the individual’s behavior will include avoidance and/or compulsive washing.
Cleaning is like washing, but the obsession is directed at a place (such as a room) rather than an object or person. The individual cleans (often in a ritualized manner) to reduce the stress that coming into contact with a particular place induces in them.
Checking, another well-known symptom subset, is preoccupation with making sure. This can come in the form of checking that an action has been carried out (the gas range has been turned off, the door has been locked, etc.), but checking can be directed toward concepts as well. Individuals may repeatedly ask if something is safe or if they still have the support of a loved one.
Hit and Run OCD is less common than the types previously mentioned, but its particular set of symptoms has presented commonly enough to warrant separate mentioning. Individuals with this kind of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder exhibit checking behavior, but the obsession is that they may have unwittingly hit someone while driving. They repeatedly retrace the path they have driven to look for bodies or emergency vehicle activity.
Sexual obsessions make up another symptom subset. The most common instances are when an individual with OCD experiences prevailing fear he or she they may be homosexual or a pedophile. This is in the absence of any prior instances of sexual arousal, fantasies, or behaviors that might indicate such a sexual preference. This type presents a particular problem, as it can be difficult to decipher whether the individual is truly grappling with their sexuality or if is it unwarranted anxiety due to an obsession.
Fear of loss of impulse control is a rare sort of Obsessive-Compulsion. People with this sort of OCD are obsessed with the idea that they might have a spontaneous bout of temporary insanity. This often presents itself as fear of jumping out of a moving vehicle, fear of blurting out something inappropriate in public, or fear of attacking a family member. This fear is accompanied by safety behaviors such as steering clear of environments in which potentially embarrassing or dangerous situations could arise, or always having someone nearby to watch out for the affected person.
Obsessive-Compulsive disorder is an example of how one disorder can have varied clinical presentations. The aforementioned symptom subsets are just a few of the ways a individual can experience OCD. If you feel you may have OCD or another kind of excessive anxiety, feel free to contact our Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices of psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists. These, experienced therapists have successfully treated many patients suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920
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OCD. (2014, May 14). Wikipedia. Retrieved May 20, 2014
Weg, A. D. (2011, July 6). Living with OCD: The Many Flavors of OCD.Psychology Today. Retrieved May 20, 2014