When does enthusiasm for cleaning/checking/ sorting become unhealthy? Gemma Harrison reports on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and finds out how you can deal with the condition.
Most women like to run a tight ship around the home, and I’m no different.
That’s not just me being glib, and I haven’t conducted a poll. It’s just that being a wife, mother, and working woman has taught me not to over-stress about things.
I’ll forgive my daughter for doing her own version of the Dulux-colour chart in crayons on my living room wall, and I’ll mostly overlook my husband and sons failing to put the lavatory seat down when they’re done (less so if they miss!).
But despite that (or perhaps because of it), I often clean the bathroom at least twice a day. That’s not Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD); that’s just hygienic, isn’t it?
The British National Health Service (NHS) website defines symptoms of OCD as being formed from:
Obsession – an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters your mind causing feelings of anxiety, disgust, or unease.
Compulsion – a repetitive behaviour that you feel you need to carry out to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought.
According to the NHS, any number of factors can cause the condition, including family history, brain chemistry, life events, or personality traits.
A lot of the time, OCD is a condition that is much-maligned, misunderstood, and often dismissed as a ‘joke’. Therefore, people who suspect they suffer from it are afraid to speak up about it.
What about the man who can’t leave his house without checking every tap and power point has been turned off? Or the husband who must, must, must have his tools in his garden shed organised with military-like precision?
Sound like anyone you know? But it’s a real problem, and one that’s estimated to affect between one and three per cent of adults.
Many people are unsure of whether or not they actually have a problem and if so, how to tackle it.
Psychologist Sulata Shenoy, director of Turning Point Centre for Psychological Assessment and Therapies in Bangalore, India suggests making a mental note of one’s habits and canvassing opinion from your relatives or friends.
Dr. Shenoy says: “It’s helpful to quantify and qualify these obsessions and compulsions because very often, these get overlooked or neglected as usual.
“For instance, one might think, ‘there’s a lot of robberies going around so I have to get up at least three times in the night to check’.
“So either one can justify these irrational thoughts or actions or one can seek some help or ask people around to see if these actions really are extreme or dysfunctional.
“These are two things to consider: firstly, whether it’s recurring and secondly, whether it’s difficult to control – either at the level of thought or action.
“If both these are present, then certainly you would have to consider a diagnosis of OCD. Very often it’s not only the patient but also members of their family who are in denial.”
“The next step would logically be therapy or treatment because this will mean an end to the intense suffering that OCD can cause.”
Dr. Shenoy recommends consulting a professional, such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist for treatment.
This could mean undergoing a technique known as cognitive therapy, in which patients identify unrealistic thoughts and then alter how these thoughts are generated.
For instance, someone with a fear of germs might be asked to touch a range of dirty items without washing his hands while keeping a record of how often illness follows his action. Eventually, he will realise that it’s not the dirty objects that are making him sick.
In more extreme cases, a psychiatrist may prescribe medication to boost the levels of serotonin (a chemical nerve that helps to regulate moods and behaviour) in the brain.
So next time you’re jiggling the front door for the 10th time to ensure that, yes, it’s actually locked – then it’s time to get a little help.
Sources: NHS UK, Medical News Today, Turning Point Centre