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Thursday, April 24, 2014

What Type of OCD do I Have?

-->by Dr. Lindsay Kramer, psychotherapist and staff writer at The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles     


Some are familiar with the definition of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  OCD is most simply defined as an anxiety disorder that is characterized by intrusive thoughts that generate worry or fear and repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the anxiety.  To put it in even more basic terms, the anxiety-producing thoughts are obsessions, and the repetitive behaviors that one engages in to eliminate the anxiety are compulsions. 
OCD has become a bit of a household term over the last couple of decades.  The World Health Organization has classified it as one of the top ten causes of disability worldwide.  In the United States alone, an estimated 2 to 3 million people are suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder.  For those who struggle with OCD symptoms, it is important to be aware of the types, causes, and effective treatments of OCD, so that you can maximize the chance of leading a healthy and high-functioning life.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of OCD, let’s go a little bit deeper into the specifics.  OCD can be broken down into many different types, or subcategories.  Some common forms are as follows:

1.     Checking
2.     Hoarding
3.     Contamination
4.     Ordering
5.     Rumination
6.     Harm/Aggression

Now, let’s look in detail at these types of OCD.  As mentioned, this list does not compile every type of OCD.  If you suffer with one of these common OCD types or one that is not on this list, do not hesitate to contact a mental health professional at The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management for help.
The first and probably most common type of OCD is checking, which as the name implies, is the need to check.  The purpose of compulsive checking is to decrease the anxiety associated with uncertainty or doubt over feared consequences.  So, the compulsive behavior is the need to check and the obsessive thought is usually the prevention of some kind of damage or harm.  Within the checking type of OCD resides a myriad of different things with which people compulsively check:
-Locks: The person knows, although is uncertain, that they have locked the door and continues to check with the fear that someone may break in, steal possessions, and/or cause harm.  If this should happen, the person would feel responsible for not having checked the lock properly.
-Stoves, appliances, and switches: The person will check repeatedly to ensure that they have turned off the stove/light switch/hair dryer/oven/anything hooked to an electrical outlet.  The fear is that by not checking, the person may be responsible for causing a fire.
-Wallet or purse: The person will constantly check to make sure they have credit cards or personal documents.  The fear is that they may misplace or lose personal possessions.
-Reassurance: The person will check to make sure that they have not said or done anything to upset other people.  The fear is that they have angered or offended a loved one.
-Driving routes, mistakes, windows, house alarm, candles, etc.
A second type of OCD is hoarding, which is the inability to throw out useless or old possessions despite having limited space for the items.  Hoarding arises when the person experiences severe anxiety at the thought of discarding items, and is therefore unable to get rid of them.  There may be fears of running out of the item or needing it in the future.  The person may also fear that the item is irreplaceable or has sentimental value.  Impairments from the hoarding type of OCD can be familial or marital discord, loss of living space, social isolation, financial difficulties, and health hazards.
A third type of OCD is contamination, in which there is fear of disease and illness and most ultimately, death.  The need to wash and clean is the compulsion and fear of illness and/or death is the obsession.  The contamination fears cause the person to continually and repeatedly wash their hands and body.  These may also limit the places to which a person can feel safe and comfortable.  Here is a list of the most common fears that one might have in regards to contamination:
-Public toilets
-Shaking hands
-Touching doorknobs and handles
-Sticky or greasy substances
-Animals or insects
All of the above are associated with the fears of contracting an illness or disease from whatever object or person they come into contact.  This type of OCD causes extreme distress in nearly every area of the person’s life.
A fourth type of OCD is ordering, in which the person is preoccupied with arranging, organizing, or lining up objects until certain conditions feel ‘just right’.  People with this type of OCD can often be thought of as perfectionists due to their need for precision and exactness.  When objects are not displayed ‘correctly’, the person experiences agitation and discomfort.  Sometimes there is a need to arrange objects a certain number of times, or the person may incorporate special patterns into their ordering routine.  There may also be counting, touching, or tapping behaviors associated with this type of OCD.  The person will experience distress if others move their things.
A fifth type of OCD is rumination, or prolonged thinking about a question or theme that is unproductive or useless.  Ruminations differ from obsessional thoughts in that they are not objectionable and they are indulged rather than resisted.  Examples of ruminations include origins of the universe, life after death, and the nature of morality.  Typically, the ruminations have a metaphysical, religious, or philosophical focus.  Ruminations can cause the person to become socially detached and internally distressed.
The last type of OCD to describe today is harm/aggression.  This person is constantly plagued with worry about causing harm or being responsible for harm done to others.  Additionally, those with aggressive obsessions often worry about impulsively hurting someone simply because they are able.  This type of person generally has no history of violence, nor does he act on his urges.  He simply appraises his thoughts as dangerous so when a random thought involving harm enters his mind, the person begins to worry.  This worry takes control of the person’s mind, therefore rendering him unable to think or focus on anything other than harm.  The person does not act on their thoughts; they simply become consumed by them, which leads to greater distress and fear.
Do any of these types of OCD ring familiar to you?  Have you noticed you or those around you engaging in any of the compulsive behaviors such as checking or ordering?  Do you or someone you know have obsessional thoughts, such as those of contamination or harm?  If so, it is extremely important to seek out help from a trained mental health professional.  The April Center specializes in treating those who suffer from OCD of all types and presentations.  Please—do not allow these obsessions and compulsions to take over your life.  You deserve to have peace of mind and it all starts with getting help.  You can break free of the suffering caused by OCD!

All the best,
from The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

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