Obsessive and Compulsive Disorders
Can we Trust our Feelings, would our Heart try to Deceive us!
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Thoughts that we do not want keep recurring and building into a waterfall of Niagara proportions and these thoughts come with intense feelings of anxiety. Anxiety is an emotion but it is also our brain's warning system.
When we feel anxious, we become fearful and we feel as though we are in danger.Â We may well recognise that our fear is not rational, does not seem reasonable, but it will still feel very intense and very present. Basically, this is what is now known as Obsessive and Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It is when we develop compulsions to block or push away our obsessions and as much as the obsessions can paralyse us the compulsions isolate us and prevent us from doing activities that are joyful or good for our well-being.
There are three main parts to OCD. Firstly, there are the thoughts which make us anxious (Obsessions); secondly, the anxiety caused by this, thirdly, the things we do to reduce our anxiety (Compulsions).Therefore, when we allow shameful thoughts, not just to come in, but linger in our mind, even when we try to keep them out we will have to touch or count things or repeat the same action like washing over and over we could have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
People with OCD will usually be aware that their thoughts or actions are unreasonable. Part of its evil plan is to make us feel guilty, disgusted, depressed or embarrassed about it. But, like all addictions we will find ways to operate within it and hide it, which only serves to increase its power over us. Compulsive behaviour is very time consuming and will very easily get in the way of our normal work and family life.
Obsessions and compulsions have a different dynamic. Obsessions will be thoughts, images, or impulses which occur over and over again and feel out of, or beyond our control. They will be thoughts and feelings which we do not want to have and usually know that they do not make sense but we become overwhelmed by them. Â These images will generally affect us with emotions such as fear, disgust, doubt and, particularly self-doubt. They will get obstruct and block our ability to have an effective day-to-day life and, most often will often carry shame. However, obsessions are not those thoughts we all get occasionally about falling sick or concern for loved ones.
Compulsions are the repetitive behaviour patterns or thoughts in which we engage to neutralise, counteract, or make our obsessions go away. These actually become â¬Ërituals'. We will fully realise that it is only a temporary solution, but without a better way to cope, we become reliant upon the compulsion as a temporary escape. Compulsions can also include avoiding situations that triggerÂ obsessions. Compulsions are time consuming and get in the way of important activities which are of real value to us.The compulsions in OCD never give pleasure, they are always felt as shameful or an unpleasant demand or burden.
Compulsions do not include activities such as bedtime routines, religious practices, or learning a new skill which involves repeating an activity over and over again. These are a welcome part of daily life.
We carry out these compulsive behaviour patterns to counteract or suppress the anxiety caused by our obsessions. These may be obvious and physical actions, or just things we do in our mind. Compulsions are often related to the type of obsession we are experiencing. We may feel that something terrible will happen if we don't carry out our compulsions or that they protect us from fears which we can not identify in our conscious self. Performing the compulsion will make us feel better in the short term, because we have found a way to block it but, at the same time giving it more life. Even tough this feeling does not last very long, we will become more dependant upon carrying out these compulsions. They become a drug to which we become addicted.
The words 'compulsive' and 'obsessive' are sometimes used to describe people who gamble, drink alcohol, use street drugs - or even exercise too much. We use these expressions such as "she is obsessive about cleanliness"Â "he is obsessive about the gym" or "he is obsessive about his football team" when we talk about people who do something again and again, even when others can't see any reason for it. However, these behaviours can be pleasurable.
The degree somebody can suffer from OCD varies greatly, but work, relationships and family life are all much more productive and satisfying if one does not constantly have to operate with OCD. Severe OCD will make it vey difficult and often impossible to work regularly, take part in family life, or even to get on with our family.
Many children will have mild compulsions such as organising their toys very precisely, or avoiding stepping on cracks in the pavement. This usually goes away as they grow older. Adult OCD will usually begin in our teens or early twenties. Symptoms can come and go with time and will be dependant upon our circumstances but sufferers often don't seek help until they have had OCD for many years and become aware of its destructive nature.
Severe OCD is very unlikely, and I would say will not go away on its own and although there may beÂ times when the symptoms seem to have passed they always return. Generally, it will slowly become more dominating and the symptoms get worse when we are stressed or depressed.
The laws of dynamics dictate that the ways in which we will try to help ourselves result in sustaining the obsessions and compulsions. Trying to push unpleasant thoughts out of our mind will only make the thoughts return. Try hard for one minute not to think that you want to scratch your nose and see what happens!
At any time in this 21st century over 1 million people in the U.K will, very likely, be suffering from OCD. Statistically one in every 50 people will suffer from this condition at some point in their lives but it is found to be more common in women than men. A number of notable people from history who appear to have been sufferers of OCD include the naturalist, Charles Darwin, the pioneer nurse, Florence Nightingale, and the author of Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has proved to be very effective in treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. CBT is a psychological treatment which helps us change our reaction to the obsessive thoughts, instead of trying to get push them away.
We all have strange ideas and odd thoughts at times, but that is all they are. A therapist who understands OCD will help us to decide which of our ideas we want to change, and will then help us to build new ideas that are more realistic, balanced, and helpful.
Once we have an addiction it is always with us. How we beat it is by knowing this and living with it every day, never forgetting the immense empowerment and wonderful joy of life we have when we can look at it, smile at it and say "Not today, thank you".
Richard Gosling,Â Â www.sustainable-empowerment.co.uk