Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a condition in which the sufferer experiences a cycle of repetitive, unwanted obsessions along with compulsive thoughts or behaviors.
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessions can take many forms, but most commonly they are experienced as thoughts, mental images, physical sensations, emotional states, or urges. Sometimes the mere presence of the obsession is highly distressing. However, often the obsession is associated with a “feared story”, such as “what if I ran someone over with my car” or “if I’m left alone with my child I could harm her.” These feared stories can cause significant anxiety, distress, and other unwanted mental and emotional experiences.
Compulsions are urgent attempts to control the resulting anxiety and distress. Compulsions often take the form of reassurance seeking, repetitive actions, ritualistic behaviors or routines, avoidance, or mental acts such as reviewing conversations and hyperawareness.
While Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the name and official diagnosis, various subtypes are often mentioned. These colloquial subtypes are not separate diagnoses or conditions. Instead, they are used as a form of short-hand for the general cluster of obsessions and compulsions experienced by a particular individual. Although subtypes do often have their own idiosyncrasies that require specialized training to identify and treat, it is important to remember they are all, at their core, OCD.
Below are some common yet different types of OCD along with a common corresponding obsession and compulsion.
Obsession: “If I don’t check the stove just right, then it might actually be on and could kill my family”
Compulsion: Repeated visual stove checks until it feels “right.”
Obsession: “What if I’m gay”
Compulsion: Avoiding looking at same sex people, checking groin for arousal, reminding oneself about previous opposite sex attractions and relationships.
To learn more about Homosexual OCD, please click here to listen to the FearCast Podcast episode on HOCD.
Obsession: “What if I wasn’t generous enough? Does that make me a bad person, and will I go to Hell?”
Compulsion: Reassurance seeking that they are still a good person, becoming financially overextended.
To learn more about Scrupulosity, please listen to the FearCast Podcast episode on Religious Scrupulosity.
Relationship OCD (ROCD)
Obsession: “If I don’t feel like I love my partner fully and completely, I’ll waste their life and we’ll both be miserable.”
Compulsion: Repeatedly checking for the “love” feeling, overanalyzing one’s partner behavior to be sure that they love you and are happy.
To learn more about ROCD, please listen to the FearCast Podcast episode about Relationship OCD.
Obsession: “If I can’t get myself to stop thinking about my breathing at work, I’ll never be fully present, my productivity will suffer, my career will stall, and I won’t have the life I wanted!”
Compulsion: Suppressing attention on one’s breathing, listening to music, telling one’s self to “stop thinking about this”, repeated prayer, evaluating whether there is something wrong with one’s breathing.
To learn more about Sensorimotor OCD, please listen to the FearCast Podcast episode about Sensorimotor OCD.
Obsession: “I had a thought of stabbing someone at dinner; will I do it, or do I want to do it?”
Compulsion: Avoiding knives or other potentially harmful objects, avoiding being alone with someone, asking others if they think the Harm OCD sufferer is truly violent.
Obsession: “I called a 5-year old ‘cute’, does that mean I’m attracted to children?”
Compulsion: Avoiding being around children, checking groin for arousal, suppressing any thoughts about children.
To learn more about POCD, please listen to the FearCast Podcast Episode on Pedophile OCD.
Obsession: “What if we live in the multiverse?”
Compulsion: Frantically reading about the multiverse to fully understand the concepts, checking for signs of reality, constant rumination about the multiverse’s effect on life, ruminating about your potential character and actions in another universe.
To learn more about Existential OCD, please click here to listen to the FearCast Podcast Episode on Existential OCD
Obsession: “If I keep having these violent thoughts about my baby, I might actually do it”
Compulsion: Refusing to be alone with one’s child, asking family to bathe one’s child, avoiding being around perceived violent objects while with children.
To learn more about Post Partum OCD, please listen to the FearCast Podcast episode on Post-Partum OCD, or the Post-Partum and Perionatal OCD episode with Kelley Franke.
Obsession: “I can’t recall everything I did yesterday; what if I did something terrible?”
Compulsion: Mental review of previous interactions and behaviors, testing memory recall of previous events, giving yourself reassurance that you didn’t do anything terrible and that you’re a good person.
To learn more about OCD treatment, or to schedule an assessment, please contact me.
The California OCD and Anxiety Treatment Center offers specialized therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in its Fullerton offices. In addition to serving North Orange County, Los Angeles, and the Inland Empire, CalOCD offers online therapy, group therapy, and Intensive Out-Patient treatment.