Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD, in short, is an anxiety disorder that comprises obsessive (intrusive, unwanted) thoughts followed by observational compulsions (Pure-O is an exception and we shall cover that topic later). That is how it has been defined so far and in fact, the definition has no fault in it. It is compact and straightforward. But for a layman, to understand the term in a better way, real-life examples are required. Association of words with familiar objects is necessary to grasp the meaning in whole. So let us take the first example. Suppose you are the parent of a ten-year-old child, Rahul. Today you sent him to the nearby shop, situated at a distance of merely a mile to bring Maggi noodles because you were busy in the other chores. It is 7:00 pm now and Rahul has not returned back. It is dark outside and he has no mobile phone with him. You rush towards the shop and to your dismay, you find out that your beloved son had already left the shop after purchasing Maggi. In less than a minute different thoughts start bombarding inside your brain.
” Where is Rahul now?”, “Is he okay?”, “Did someone…did someone lure him and take him away for a nasty motive?”, “Oh Lord, I just hope he is not in the wrong hands”, ” It is all my fault, I should not have sent him at the first place!
You might not notice but anyone standing near you can see droplets of sweat on your forehead. You might be shivering as well. Heartbeat rate is higher than it ought to be in normal condition. Anything, literally anything happening nearby you don’t make any sense now, the only thing in your head now is- Rahul. Oh yes, and those unwanted, disturbing, intrusive thoughts. You are not able to get rid of them. The more you try to resist, the more you find yourself in a miserable condition.
Let’s take another example; You’re excited to celebrate your birthday with your friends and you throw the party at your house. You make all the arrangements, from foods to the decors. Everything seems all good. After cutting the “Dark Forest” you share it with your friends. All the presents you receive with beautiful smiles on their face and the kiss on your cheek from your crush- makes the day memorable forever. Your best friend helps you in serving the dinner. After taking few bites, your friend finds something unusual in the food – a tail or something. It makes the scene gross as masala drips off the eww stuff. Everyone’s eyes are on you. You have no words. Your friend cries, ” You wanted to make us sick or what!”. You’re now angry and guilty at the same time. Different kind of emotions is running through your neurons. From happiness to something unexplainable, your mind seems to be unpredictable.
“Why didn’t I check the food before serving?” “Was my intention really evil?” “Am I a bad person?” Am I such an irresponsible guy?” “How can I be like this, and all in front of my crush and friends” “This is so embarrassing”
In both the examples, we see one thing in common- unwanted thoughts, thoughts which are stuck in the mind and no matter how hard you try, they keep coming back. Now you might say that this is NORMAL because the situation demanded it. It is all due to different stimuli. YES, you’re absolutely right. This IS Normal and after a certain period of time, you will be able to forget these mishaps and get along with life. BUT, people suffering from OCD are not able to forget such things easily. The emotions we saw in both the examples i.e. shivering of body parts, sweating, grinding teeth, palpitation etc combine with each other and makes – ANXIETY. It is the same anxiety that you feel right before the announcement of your exam results or the name of the winner in your favourite reality show. It is not a different anxiety that you feel when your favourite team in India vs. Pakistan cricket match seems to be losing. The same anxiety attacks you when you forget your driving license at home and get caught in the traffic.
In all such circumstances, the threats are REAL but in case of OCD, the seemed to be real circumstances are actually not real. Wait, hallucinations are entirely a different thing and are not a part of OCD. It does sound absurd but despite being aware of the situation the sufferer fails to divert the mind from the exaggerating muddle created by the mind. You might think that it is easy for us to shift our thoughts to another one when any displeasing idea strikes our mind then why people (OCD suffering) JUST DON”T STOP THINKING AND CONCENTRATE ON SOMETHING FRUITFUL. The answer is; because they are not able to do so and that is why it is called a disorder, something which is out of order. If they would be able to do so they would have done it already and lead a normal life like you or me.
Will you say malaria or cancer patient,”Why don’t you just stop thinking you’re suffering from malaria/cancer”? The answer is, NO, you won’t because you can SEE the physical suffering but on the other hand you cannot see mental suffering.
It is not like the patient enjoys the thoughts, he/she tries every single thing to get rid of the unwanted situation. In order to get off, he/she tries to find an escape route and that is where COMPULSION comes in. Compulsions can be mental or physical or both. To understand compulsions we can take an example of studying. Yes, you heard it right. When exams are in the near future what do you do? Do you go to the playground or you sit and study to excel in the exams? The latter option seems better because you KNOW that the outcome of Studying will be good. You do not want to become a loser, right? Now coming back to the compulsion, in order to prevent a mishap, face away from the uncertainty or to SECURE the future the sufferer performs some rituals which, again, seem to be RELIEF but in reality, they adds to the problem. They are a temporary relief and can be of any type which we will see in the next post.
We will continue this topic in the second post where we shall further discuss the symptoms, causes and remedy of OCD. Your suggestion is valuable to me and hence your comments will be looked for. Namaste.