OCD is a mental health disorder in children and adults characterized by recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or images (obsessions) and/or behavioral or mental acts (compulsions) that the patient feels driven to carry out, oftentimes repetitively. Compulsions can be performed in response to an obsession or independent of obsessions, and are often carried out to reduce anxiety or prevent a dreaded event. OCD is a condition most people are familiar with – in fact, chances are you’ve probably joked about having it at one time or another. For people who actually struggle with OCD, however, these obsessions and/or compulsions are no joking matter and can have a hugely debilitating impact on their relationships, their mental and emotional health, and their overall quality of life.
Many people associate OCD as manifesting in behaviors like having to arrange things a certain way or excessive hand-washing, and while both of those things can certainly be symptoms of OCD there are so many other ways the condition can present itself.
Today we want to help shed some light on this serious condition by highlighting 4 signs of OCD to watch for, some of which you might not be familiar with.
You think about harm often – to yourself and others.
We’ve all had times where we can’t stop thinking about things going on around us – that’s a normal reaction when things go wrong in life or during times of extreme frustration. For patients with OCD these thoughts can range from a strong fear that harm will come to you or your loved ones or thoughts that you might harm yourself or others. The content of the obsession is oftentimes completely unwarranted, and patients experience a lot of distress as the result.
It’s important to understand that the vast majority of people with OCD are not violent individuals – in fact, OCD patients experience emotional distress, sometimes extreme and debilitating because they have these thoughts, which can result in them self-isolating. However, patients whose obsessions are fear they will harm themselves or others are not more likely to follow through than the general public. That said, the prevalence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in OCD is increased and thought to be due to the severity of OCD, presence of depressive thoughts, and anxiety.
You worry about contamination and catching/spreading germs.
It’s very normal to be a little bit of a germaphobe or worry about not wanting to get sick, especially given the current pandemic. When these fears occur for extended periods of time and/or result in compulsive behaviors (such as cleaning your kitchen for hours every day or making and then re-making food) or avoidance behaviors that prevent you from doing things you otherwise would do (such as avoiding public restrooms, not eating food you didn’t prepare yourself, etc.) then they could indicate OCD.
You experience an extreme need for symmetry or balance.
Although this trait can be exhibited by many people without OCD, it is a common symptom seen in children and adults with OCD. The need for symmetry can look different for each patient – it could mean needing to do something on both sides of the body the same number of times, or lining things up in a specific order. Many people can appreciate a sense of order in life, but the key difference is that OCD patients typically have to perform these same behaviors until it feels right – this helps achieve a sense of balance or relief, and many patients feel a release of anxiety as a result.
You constantly double and triple check everything.
This type of OCD behavior can manifest in a number of different ways, from safety concerns or perfectionism to excessively seeking reassurance in a relationship. It’s different than simply making sure you dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s on an important work project, though! For example, consider the following scenario: you’re at work and a thought pops into your head – “did I remember to blow out that candle?”
Someone without OCD might experience a quick flash of uncertainty or panic before replaying the morning’s events and determining that they did in fact blow out the candle, or they may simply brush away the thought completely and decide it’s no big deal either way. An OCD patient, however, may experience extreme distress and be consumed with fear that the house is burning down. These thoughts could cause them to leave work, drive home, and go through the house checking every single candle to make sure it’s unlit, regardless of any potential consequences from their employer.
This is a common manifestation of OCD – an inability to brush things off or go about your daily life until you have double and triple checked (in many cases to an excessive degree) that everything is exactly as it should be.
Managing OCD Symptoms
At Olympian Clinical Research we understand just how seriously the symptoms of OCD can impact every aspect of patients’ lives, and our team is committed to helping OCD patients find ways to effectively manage their symptoms long term and improve their quality of life. We’ll be enrolling for a clinical trial next month designed specifically for OCD patients, and we’re hopeful that this study will help provide a solution for patients who are struggling from this condition.
If you’d like to learn more about how clinical trials work or want to stay updated with details about our OCD trial and enrollment, then contact our Tampa office today!