A lot of people don’t understand OCD, what it’s like, or how it affects those who actually deal with it on a daily basis. People think they’re weird, strange, odd.. insert your favorite derogatory term here. Why? Because people with OCD do strange, odd or weird things. But see, here’s the thing. OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is a real disease. Notice the word compulsive? Those who suffer from OCD feel compelled to do some of the odd little things that they do. And when you laugh at them because of it, when you make fun of them because you perceive them to be different, it hurts. How do I know this?
Hi. My name is Dennis, and I am one of the 2.3% of the population that suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I am not weird. I am not strange. My brain just fires a little bit differently than most people’s.
What is OCD?
OCD is a disorder in the brain that causes obsessive compulsive behavior in the affected person. The sufferer feels compelled to do things, such as check door locks frequently, count steps, or any number of other repetitive actions. We generally realize that we’re doing it, and we generally realize that it doesn’t make any sense. But yet, we just can’t help it. This causes anxiety, because we try to fight the urges. In the end, we usually just give in to the compulsions. Otherwise, the brain goes nuts.
Here’s what the International OCD Foundation has to say about it:
Imagine that your mind got stuck on a certain thought or image. Then this thought or image got replayed in your mind over and over again. No matter what you did. You don’t want these thoughts. It feels like an avalanche. Along with the thoughts come intense feelings of anxiety. Anxiety is your brain’s alarm system. When you feel anxious, it feels like you are in danger. Anxiety is an emotion that tells you to respond, react, protect yourself.. DO SOMETHING!
One the one hand, you might recognize that the fear doesn’t make any sense, doesn’t seem reasonable, yet it still feels very real, intense, and true. Why would your brain lie? Why would you have these feelings if they weren’t true? Feelings don’t like, do they?
Unfortunately, if you have OCD, they do lie. If you have OCD, the warning system in your brain is not working correctly. Your brain is telling you that you are in danger when you are not. When scientists compare pictures of the brains of groups of people with OCD, they can see that some areas of the brain are different than the brains of people who don’t have OCD.
Those tortured with OCD are desperately trying to get away from paralyzing, unending anxiety.
Here are a few of my little “quirks” that make no sense, but that I just can’t seem to stop doing.
- Radio dials, television volume, etc must be on an even number
- When navigating webpages, I often perform a series of six pointless clicks in order to move from one page to the next
- I find myself counting things like ceiling tiles, steps, cracks on a sidewalk, etc
- No matter how many times I’ve locked the front door, I constantly have to check it again whenever I walk past. Often when I go to bed, although I know I’ve already checked and double checked the locks, my brain nags me about it until I get out of bed and check it again
- I am a bit of a neat freak (not everyone who likes things tidy has OCD, but it is one of the symptoms). Everything has a place, and should be in its place. When things are out of place, I freak out and stress and have to go on a cleaning binge.
- Feet. No. Just no.
What Causes OCD?
Simply put, nobody knows what causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Research suggests that those who suffer from OCD have differences in their genes and brains, but that’s as far as the research has been able to go, apparently. Research has also shown that, while it can be hereditary, genetics is not the only factor in determining who gets it and who doesn’t. So again, nobody really knows.
In effect, what happens is that the front part of the brain has trouble communicating with the deeper, core parts of the brain. It has something to do with seratonin levels. Apparently some people have had luck with medical treatments like Cognitive Behavior Therapy. This is one of those “scared straight” type things, really. Force the patient to confront the compulsions. No thanks.
How to React to Someone Who Has OCD
Treat them like you would anyone else. They’re not different. Everyone has issues and medical conditions. This just happens to be a more visible one than most. Don’t single them out. Don’t laugh at them. And don’t try to force them to stop, because doing so only increases the anxiety and makes them feel worse about a behavior that they already don’t understand, don’t like, and don’t want to exhibit.
We are your friends. Your brothers. Your sisters. Your loved ones. And we don’t want to be different.
Word of the Day:
- Sunday – Locks
- Monday – Anxiety
- Tuesday – Seratonin
- Wednesday – OCD
- Thursday – Volume
- Friday – Brain
- Saturday – Counting