Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a psychological condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide. Characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours, OCD can significantly impact a person’s daily life, productivity, and mental well-being. In this article, we delve into the personal experiences of individuals living with OCD, shedding light on the challenges they face and the importance of understanding this complex disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common psychological disorder primarily characterised by the term itself, which is obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour.
From a patient’s point of view, obsessions in this condition are generally termed as unwanted thoughts that bombard a person’s mind and compulsions as the behaviours these patients engage in, to subdue or alleviate the anxiety associated with it.
Professionals note that symptoms of OCD can start early, often around puberty but usually start displaying more strongly during early adulthood. Research has identified several types of OCD conditions namely, fears of contamination, compulsive checking for completion, severe paranoia, ordering and arranging objects in specific ways, and different kinds of intrusive thoughts.
Daily Mirror spoke to three individuals, a retired businesswoman, a school tutor and a working youngster about their personal experiences and diagnosis as suffering from OCD.
Geetha, a retired businesswoman, told us how her type of OCD impacted her productivity and peace of mind in both her personal and professional life.
“I had been late to countless meetings as I would continuously check and recheck all the locks and switches before stepping out. My brain keeps telling me that I didn’t do it properly even though I know I did,” Geetha said.
Geetha is also someone who grew up, studied and worked with intense competition and fear of failure, which she claims has worsened her OCD tendencies as well.
“I would do certain tasks in my daily routine a specific amount of times until it felt right. If I break this habit, I feel like something terrible would happen,” Geetha explained how she brushes her teeth to a certain strict pattern every day and how avoiding this compulsion would put her in intense irrational anxiety.
“The logical and frustrated side of my brain understands that this is unnecessary and time-wasting, but I can’t seem to discard the habits at all,” she said.
Geetha also shared how she needs to tap on every single surface of furniture before going to bed and that oftentimes these irrational habits have affected her mental peace, personal life and punctuality a lot.
“These compulsions bully my brain as these habits are linked with severe irrational paranoia.”
One time she forced herself to forgo and refrain from doing the compulsions and ended up having intense panic attacks at work. She recalls how she felt like she was going to die or pass out.
Nirosha, a school tutor, told us how he suffers from OCD subtype, mental contamination. “It’s not just being clean and neat,” he said.
“People mistake the general idea of being a “neat freak” for this OCD type and that’s a misconception. This affects my life and my health to a great extent. The habits are repetitive and irrational, and it’s not something I have any control over.”
Nirosha absolutely dreads touching public material such as money, public transportation seats, handrails and even doing handshakes. He would always wash his hands or use sanitiser afterwards excessively.
“My palms have become extremely damaged and sensitive because of this behaviour since I clean my hands around 20 times a day,” he said.
Nirosha also added how the Covid-19 pandemic and the concern around germs and infection made his already difficult condition even worse.
“I’m scared to death about germs and dirt, and because of this I have developed a low immunity and a heightened risk to catch all kinds of diseases.”
Dewmi, a working youngster in her 20s admitted that she was quite hesitant to talk about her OCD subtype because people tend to judge her and come to conclusions very quickly.
“When you tell someone that you get intrusive thoughts because of OCD, people back away from you as if you are dangerous and rarely stop to listen to the full story,” she said.
Dewmi explained that her intrusive thoughts are irrational, nonsensical and bizarre but that she never acts upon them.
“My logical senses stop me from acting upon them but dealing with these nagging ruminations and thoughts requires so much mental effort.”
She recalled how this condition started when she was around nine years old.
“A weird jigsaw puzzle or a certain uneven pattern would appear in my imagination without my control and I would spend hours doing nothing, trying to fix it in my imagination,” she said, adding that this habit took over and wasted most of her childhood back then.
As she grew up, her intrusive thoughts revolved around several insignificant details. “I remember seeing this unerased mark on the blackboard one Friday afternoon at school and I couldn’t erase it. I spent the weekend with so much unnecessary mental pain and torment thinking about it until I was able to erase it on Monday.”
Dewmi admits that she did get aggressive thoughts as well but stressed that she never and could not act upon them.
“This is why we are not dangerous and just need support. We are well aware that these thoughts are irrational and the only ones getting hurt, exhausted and frustrated are ourselves who are trying to silence and ignore those nagging thoughts. She said that she would often get shocked at herself for getting them because they are bizarre and unnecessary.
“I know that these uncontrollable intrusive thoughts don’t reflect who I am or my values, but it puts me in so much painful guilt,” Dewmi said.
All three of them assured us that proper therapy helped them understand and regulate these compulsions and intrusive thoughts.
“My doctor made me feel less guilty about my intrusive thoughts, trained me in therapy techniques and made me more compassionate towards myself.’ Dewmi said.
Geetha also added that therapy sessions, which her sibling advised her to attend, have helped her control her compulsions and irrational fears more healthily and reflectively.
Nirosha who started therapy only recently regrets not starting it much earlier.
“People have this stigma around therapy which stops them from achieving a level of quality life that we all deserve,” he said.
“Seeking help reduced my paranoia and made me function better and work normally. I’m glad I decided to address it rather than waste time speculating my problem.”
*Names have been changed
Let’s talk about mental health is a series of articles intended to share patient
perspectives of their struggles with mental well-being. Through these articles, we hope to inform, educate and reduce the stigma around mental health discussions.
Bona Thursday, 18 May 2023 05:53 AM
This is a great series. It is a much needed initiative in Sri Lanka. There is a lot of stigma associated with mental health in our society. My brother suffered from OCD and I saw how much distress and shame it brought him. There needs to be understanding and compassion towards mental illness just like there is towards physical illnesses.
Sandra Fernando Tuesday, 23 May 2023 09:24 AM
We need to work at including the people with invisible handicaps (autism, OCD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and so on). They can all contribute to society and participate in the economy. No reason why they should be excluded or stigmatised.
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