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    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common mental disorder where people have certain thoughts or doubts repeatedly and perform certain routines repeatedly.  It has two main parts: obsessions and compulsions.

    Obsessions: Obsessions are thoughts, images, urges or doubts that repeatedly appear in one’s mind like thinking that you have been contaminated by dirt and germs, or having doubts if one has done a task like locking the door.

    Compulsions: Compulsions are repetitive activities resulting as a result of the obsessions. This includes washing or cleaning repeatedly or repeatedly checking a door to make sure it is locked.

    These obsessions and compulsions can cause considerable distress and affect the daily routine of the person suffering from OCD. Many people with OCD also develop depression.

    Common obsessions:

    • Fear of contamination: thoughts about dirt and germs.
    • Doubts: like the door being unlocked or gas burner not turned off.
    • Thoughts about harm to self or someone else.
    • Sexual thoughts.
    • Blasphemous thoughts: having thoughts that are against one’s religious beliefs.
    • Excessive concern with order or symmetry.
    • Fear of having an illness or physical symptoms.

    Common compulsions

    • Repeated washing/ cleaning.
    • Repeated checking behavior (like checking if the door is locked).
    • Mental compulsions: repeating a specific word or phrase.
    • Repeating actions: touching every light switch in the house every time you leave or enter the house.
    • Focusing on a number: having to buy three of everything or reading an email seven times before sending it.
    • Ordering or arranging.
    • Repeated praying.


    How is OCD diagnosed?

    If you are concerned that you have OCD, you should consult a psychiatrist. A detailed evaluation will include questions like:

    • Do you wash or clean a lot?
    • Do you check things a lot?
    • Is there any thought that keeps bothering you that you’d like to get rid of but can’t?
    • Do your daily activities take a long time to finish?
    • Are you concerned about putting things in a special order or do you find mess very upsetting?


    Treatments available

    • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT): It is a treatment which aims to identify connections between your thoughts, feelings and behavior and helps in developing skills to manage negative patterns of thinking or behavior.  It works by helping you to confront your obsessions and resist the urge to carry out compulsions. It consists of 12-20 sessions over 3 months period.
    • Medications
    • A combination of medicines and CBT is the most helpful.


    How can one help self?

    • Self-help materials: Self-help books on OCD; computer programs.
    • Peer support groups: It can help you feel less isolated and gives a chance to share how you cope with your feelings and experiences.
    • Relaxation and mindfulness techniques:  It may help you deal with anxiety that you experience as a result of your OCD.
    • Doing some regular physical activity can help improve your mental wellbeing.
    • Talk to someone you trust, it could help you feel that it is less frightening, and make you feel less isolated.


    What can friends and family do to help?

    • Listen and try to understand.
    • Support them in their fight against OCD.
    • Direct your friend or family member to information materials.


    Sunil Gupta
    D. Psychiatry (Gold Medalist)


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