OCD: What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

October 14, 2017
Hello, hello. It's been a while. Quick update before I get into the nitty gritty of this post. I've moved back to Galway and I actually have a HOUSE and a BED after sleeping on floors, couches and other questionable places for a month. I'm now working in Penneys and I actually really, really enjoy it. I broke my laptop so blog posts have been few and far between. Hopefully I can find some way of keeping up with my blog (I've written this blog post completely out with pen and paper and just transferred it and I feel ancient) but bare with me for now.

Despite smashing my laptop, I really wanted to get a blog post out this week because it's OCD Awareness Week, a topic that is very close to my heart. The first time I wrote about OCD on my blog I was just coming to terms with it. I had just been diagnosed and I was having a hard time understanding it. I wanted to get my thoughts out on a 'page' to kind of help me get a grip on it. The post was a bit incoherent, imo, although it is my most popular post to date.

This time around I feel like I'm a different person. Yes, I still have OCD and I still have to work on that every day, but now I feel like I am more in control, as opposed to it controlling me. Honestly, it used to control every single aspect of my life and it was constantly something that I thought about. It is still on my mind the majority of the time but I have overcome a lot of my compulsions and I've learnt to cope with the rest of them. I'm happier now and it is not something that I feel holds me back as much anymore.

I'm not saying I'm cured, because I still have off days and sometimes even weeks. I still have episodes of OCD which can be very upsetting, but they no longer knock me down to the extent that they used to. Because of all this I wanted to do a more detailed post about OCD, how I manage it and how it affects aspects of my daily routine, since I now have a greater understanding of my own OCD.

I was first diagnosed with OCD at the end of my first year of college and I honestly couldn't believe it as it was something that I didn't understand at all. For me, I really believed in the stereotype of OCD, i.e. wanting things to be in order etc. When people think of OCD they often think of people washing their hands or wanting things done a specific way and a lot of people tend to think that they are 'soooo OCD' because they are tidy. OCD is much, much more than that.

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which I'm sure nearly everyone knows, but lets break that down and explain it properly.

Obsessive is the unwanted and intrusive thoughts and ideas that the sufferer experiences. Compulsions are the rigid behaviours and routines the sufferer needs to carry out repeatedly, and not doing them can cause great anxiety and distress. A diagnosis of OCD requires a presence of obsessions and/or compulsions which are carried out daily and majorly interferes with the daily life of the sufferer (takes up over one hour of their daily routine), so keeping your room tidy does not warrant a diagnosis of OCD.

For me, my OCD varies depending on my surroundings. Usually my obsessions are regarding germs and bacteria, which is why I spend a lot of time cleaning (not nearly as much as I used to thank goodness) but I also have a lot of intrusive thoughts regarding harm coming to family and friends, and I often imagine myself getting attacked when walking alone, or getting hit by a car or bus when crossing the road. I also sometimes feel like I am not in control of myself, so I fear that I will be the one to cause harm to my family and friends, or that I will accidentally walk out onto a busy road without realising. I like to plan and make lists and I get extremely upset when these change, to the point of tears at times. When I've been drinking, my OCD increases a lot and I tend to do a lot of counting. I've counted people, tiles and on my fingers in the middle of a nightclub, which is very distressing and usually ends in a panic attack. I've also been convinced that I had murdered someone before and I had to draw out a diagram of the people I had been talking to in the group to make sure that they were all there and that I hadn't actually killed someone. There is a lot of fear surrounding OCD and I am scared that I am in danger in some way. I can feel absolutely insane at times.

There are also other illnesses closely linked with OCD, including Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Hoarding, and skin picking and hair pulling. I have Trichotillomania, which is hair pulling, which I've also written about here. 

''Obsessive compulsive disorder statistics from the world global health organization indicate OCD is ranked ten among all diseases as a cause for disability. This includes physical diseases.'' (Saxena 2009)

OCD is a tricky thing to treat. I've been to a lot of counselors and gone through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, but mainly only for my Anxiety, so for me, OCD often takes a back burner. However, I have been able to learn to manage it in some ways by exposing myself to situations that make me uncomfortable and that trigger my obsessions and then attempting to not carry out my compulsions. It's difficult and can be extremely upsetting, but it is something that works for me. I like to wait it out until I get through an episode so I feel like I am in control of it. Each time it gets a little easier and I am on the right path to being unphased by my obsessions and compulsions. 

That was such a long post. I'm so sorry for literally being MIA and coming back with this monster of information on such a touchy subject. I really hope this post was more informative than my last one and that you can take something away from it. If you are struggling with OCD, just know that it does get easier, just keep working towards getting better and don't give in. You can always send me a DM on Twitter or Instagram if you've got any questions or if you just want someone to talk to when you're having a hard time.