What is OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health issue that is surprisingly widespread. It was thought to be a relatively uncommon mental illness only 25 years ago. OCD is now affecting millions of people, which is about three percent of the country’s population. OCD usually develops in adolescence or early adulthood. However, it can begin as early as childhood. OCD is a form of anxiety disorder. Therefore, to relieve the anxiety or alarm, people feel driven to act fixedly and repeatedly.

Meaning of OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is described by a pattern of unwelcome thoughts and anxieties (obsessions) that cause you to engage in repetitive behavioral responses (compulsions).

Unwelcoming thoughts of the obsessions also include irritating and unpleasant thoughts, images, or urges that are continual and repeated. The compulsions can be explained as extreme, disturbing behaviors or behaviors unrelated to factual safety. 

Compulsions are an attempt to neutralize or decrease worry or anxiety caused by distressing thoughts. However, controlling obsessions and compulsions is very challenging. Despite attempts to ignore or eliminate unpleasant thoughts or desires, they continue. As a result, more ritualistic behavior and intense aspect of superstition develop. Even if there is no real threat, most persons with OCD do rituals till they feel secure.

The negative reinforcement

People with OCD strive for a specific, physical sense of safety. But, they have difficulty holding factual safety. For example, a person has to wash their hands for a very long time because of anxiety from dirtiness. They will wash and pass much beyond the actual cleanliness level. Meanwhile, they try to achieve the point of feeling a sense of cleanliness themselves. As a result, people with OCD can feel they are clean enough at the developing stage of OCD. But, it will keep making the anxiety stronger, and the brain part that detects safety will be weaker. It is called ‘negative reinforcement.’  

Treatment for OCD

The primary treatment for OCD is therapy or taking medication. The therapy for the person with OCD is ‘Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP),’ one of the ‘Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).’ ERP therapy enables you to confront your anxiety and allow obsessive thoughts to arise without ‘correcting’ or ‘neutralizing’ them through compulsions. Most importantly, both drugs and ERP are effective treatments.   

Louis Pasteur

The obsession of one individual led to a significantly more positive outcome. There was a French chemist whose name was Louis Pasteur. Pasteur hated to shake people’s hands and had a habit of cleaning his plate and glass intensely before eating. Pasteur developed a method for removing harmful microorganisms from milk, beer, and many other liquids while also reducing fermentation. Certainly, his worry and anxiety against contamination and infection fueled his relentless labor on this idea. 

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Photo by Annie Spratt, Olia Gozha, Artur Łuczka, Lina Trochez, and Diego PH on Unsplash

  • Passer, M & Smith, R. (2015). Psychology: The science of mind and behaviour. (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.

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