Many people talk about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and may even diagnose it in others without truly understanding what it entails. OCD is a disorder that can have chronic consequences for those who suffer from it. In order to avoid the deteriorating consequences that OCD brings, it is most important to accurately identify the disorder and to seek help. This article will provide a Christian psychologist’s perspective on this disorder, and will give some helpful hints for identifying OCD and seeking treatment while taking control of obsessional thoughts.
Understanding the Terms
OCD is an anxiety disorder that is defined by the presence of obsessions or compulsions. These terms can be tricky to understand because, like the disorder itself, people often use terms like anxiety and obsession to describe many different types of thoughts, feelings or behavior. When identifying OCD, an accurate definition of these terms is important.
What Does it Mean to be Obsessive?
In the context of OCD, obsessions are defined as intrusive thoughts, ideas, images, impulses or doubts. These are experienced as unacceptable, senseless or bizarre and they evoke subjective distress in the form of anxiety or doubt. Some examples of typical obsessional themes include: aggression and violence, responsibility for causing harm, contamination, sex, religion, the need for exactness or completeness, and serious illness. Many people with OCD experience multiple types of obsessions.
What are Compulsions?
Compulsions, on the other hand, are urges to perform behavioral or mental rituals in order to reduce the anxiety or probability of harm associated with the obsessions. Compulsive rituals are deliberate, yet are clearly senseless or excessive. Some examples of behavioral rituals include: repetitious hand washing, checking things like locks or stove tops, and counting and repeating routine actions. Some examples of mental rituals include using special phrases or numbers in order to reduce one’s obsessional fear.
OCD symptoms typically develop gradually and those that suffer from the disorder can vary in terms of their insight into the senselessness of their symptoms.
Learning How to Judge One’s Thoughts
If someone is beginning to suspect that they, or someone close to them, may be suffering from OCD, it is important to point out that everyone experiences obsessional thoughts from time to time. Intrusive and obsessional thoughts, ideas or images that are experienced as unwanted, senseless and bizarre form a fundamental part of OCD. These thoughts can be triggered by things going on around one, or they may be totally random. But a key difference between someone who is suffering from OCD and someone who is not is that the person with OCD often misinterprets such thoughts as highly significant, whereas the person who is not suffering from OCD can more easily disregard such thoughts as “mental noise.” God blessed all of us with minds that are capable of enormous creativity. We are capable of imagining all kinds of scenarios – some pleasant and others extremely unpleasant. A good example of this is that many people daydream about things like winning the lottery or catching the winning touchdown for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Just as our minds can produce positive thoughts that are unlikely to come true, our minds can also produce unpleasant thoughts.
The problem in OCD is not that the obsessional thoughts occur, but rather that these are seen as very meaningful or threatening. Therefore, treatment for OCD does not attempt to eliminate obsessional thoughts, but rather to correct how one judges one’s obsessional thoughts. By doing this, one is able to reduce the distress caused by these thoughts and to rather see them as part of one’s normal experience. Once the intrusive thoughts are no longer perceived as threatening, it will not matter how often they occur.
Christian Counseling Can Help You to Overcome OCD
If this description of OCD sounds familiar to you, or if you suspect that you or someone close to you may be suffering from OCD, it is important to take action to prevent its harmful consequences. Christian counseling can be a good resource for those who struggle with obsessions and compulsions, and a trained Christian counselor can support you as you seek to evaluate and take control of your own thoughts.
Images are from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/; First image “Woman washing hands in restroom”; Second image “Lotto game”