Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a serious emotional problem that involves:
Obsessions: Intense worries, thoughts, and images that pop into the mind and create a great deal of distress. Worries about becoming contaminated with germs are an example of a particularly common obsession.
Compulsions: Various behaviors or actions that temporarily reduce the distress obsessions cause. For example, people with contamination obsessions would be likely to wash their hands excessively to deal with their worries about becoming contaminated.
OCD can be fairly mild, but it’s quite common for it to be severe and substantially reduce the quality of life for those who have it. Sufferers often spend many hours a day carrying out their compulsions and feel helpless to do anything about their OCD. The good news is that OCD is highly treatable. The bad news is that a diagnosis of OCD often raises the risk of other emotional problems such as the ones that follow.
- Mood Disorders: Some studies have found that more than twenty-five percent of people who have OCD also have a disturbance in their moods. Left untreated, mood disorders can lead to serious problems. If you have intense feelings of sadness, low moods, fatigue, and/or feelings of worthlessness, it’s important to have it checked out. Conversely, if your moods become extremely high and are accompanied by things such as inflated self-esteem, rapid speech, excessive energy, decreased need for sleep, and/or excessive indulgences, that needs to be looked into as well.
- Anxiety Disorders: OCD has generally been thought to be a type of anxiety disorder although some professionals feel otherwise. In either event, problems with anxiety often go along with OCD. Signs of anxiety include avoidance of people, fears of losing control, intense fears, panic attacks, and tension.
- Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD): The various types of ADD often involve problems with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Additional problems include troubles staying focused, losing various items, forgetfulness, trouble remaining still, and talking without thinking. Those who have OCD are at increased risk of having ADD, but they also may merely “look” like they have ADD because their OCD requires much of their attentional resources. The good news here is that successful treatment of OCD sometimes results in an abatement of their ADD like symptoms.
- Substance Abuse: Given that OCD causes huge distress for many of its sufferers, it’s not surprising that some of them try abusing substances (alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal drugs) to quell their anxiety and upset. Unfortunately, the relief provided by substances is fleeting. Treatment should be sought for both problems when they co-occur.
The bottom line is that if you have OCD, you probably feel great distress. That distress can escalate if you also have one or more additional emotional problems such as the ones discussed above. However, OCD as well as these accompanying problems can be alleviated by treatment that’s been designed and empirically validated for these issues.
Just a reminder—when you seek treatment for any of these problems, be sure to ask the mental health professional if he or she has experience and training in treating these disorders.