OCD is a term that has been thrown around casually in conversation by neurotypical people for ages. You might hear somebody say something along the lines of “I am very OCD about this particular thing”, but in all reality, OCD is not simply a trait that every person has, it is much more complex than a person being anal about doing something a certain way. The issue with people using the term in such an “everybody has some sort of OCD” way, is that it takes away from the fact that it is a very real type of Neurodiversity and should be treated as such. So what exactly is OCD?
What is it?
OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is a disorder that affects people of all ages including those who are otherwise in perfect health. OCD is a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are repeated thoughts, mental images, or urges that can cause intense anxiety and distressing feelings. Compulsions are the repetitive actions or behaviors that a person feels the need to do to rid themselves of the distress/anxiety that is caused by obsessive thoughts. It is a vicious cycle that many people have to struggle with every day of their lives, which is why it is so incredibly important for society to understand that OCD is not something to make light of. A lot of people will experience obsessions and compulsions in their lifetimes and without having the proper knowledge, they may confuse it for OCD, but for OCD to be diagnosed these obsessions and compulsions must be so extreme that they interfere with a person’s ability to focus on and maintain their day to day life.
Let’s get a little more in-depth about what obsessions and compulsions are.
What are Obsessions?
Obsessions are impulses, thoughts, or mental images that occur repeatedly and a person feels as if they have no control over them. Obsessions usually do not go unnoticed in the mind of the person struggling with OCD. People with OCD regularly realize that these thoughts and/or impulses do not make sense and find them to be unsettling, but because this is a real disorder, these individuals can not just make the thoughts or urges stop. People are too quick to throw around the word “obsessed”, using it to explain their attraction or interest in a particular thing or person without realizing at all that using this term may be harmful or triggering to those struggling with OCD.
What are Compulsions?
Compulsions are the second part of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Compulsions are the repetitive thoughts or actions that a person uses as a way of neutralizing or ridding themselves of their obsessive thoughts. Compulsions are only a temporary fix for obsessions and people who struggle with OCD are aware of this, but having the temporary relief from the obsessive thoughts is enough for a person to continue to use the compulsions to feel at ease, even if just for a small amount of time. Compulsions are not always actions to counteract obsessive thoughts and actions, but sometimes they are actions taken to prevent an obsession thought from occurring in the first place. Compulsions are very distracting to those suffering from OCD and just like Obsessions, they interfere with and take away from the individual’s ability to carry on with their day.
Different Types of OCD
Just as it is with other forms of Neurodiversity, OCD is not a one size fits all disorder. There are different types as well as different intensities of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Though many people do struggle with OCD, they do not all struggle the same. Each person is different, meaning their brains are going to work in different ways. Though each form of OCD falls under the same general category of Neurodiversity, they can be broken down into subcategories.
Harm OCD is used to describe a form of OCD that involves a person having very intense and disturbing violent thoughts or urges. Some thoughts or urges that a person who is struggling with harm-oriented OCD might deal with are things like jumping from a tall height, using a knife on themselves, or stepping in front of a moving vehicle. Having these thoughts or urges does not mean a person is suicidal or wants to cause harm to themselves, in fact, they usually use compulsions to prevent themselves from getting hurt. Some of the ways a person might combat harmful obsessions are to avoid standing on balconies or other high platforms, hiding sharp objects out of reach or view for when these thoughts or impulses occur or some might go as far as to avoid crowded roads and railway tracks.
Relationship OCD refers to someone who has obsessions and compulsions regarding their relationship. Some obsessive thoughts a person might have are things like “what if they are not the right person for me?” or “What if our relationship is not good enough” and other thoughts like these. A person might find themselves compulsively taking relationship quizzes, repeatedly questioning their partner and/or others whether they believe they are the right fit. They might also be constantly studying and looking into other peoples’ relationships whether it be friends and family, or even strangers online. People with relationship-related OCD often spend a lot of time comparing their relationships with those around them.
This form of OCD is one that most people are familiar with. Perfectionist OCD is referring to things needing to be done in a specific way or a specific number of times. A person who struggles with this form of OCD will often look at something and think to themselves “something isn’t right, I need to do this over again” or something similar to that. You will often find that people who struggle with this form of OCD do things like repeat tasks such as opening and closing doors, rearranging items, or stopping something part way through and starting over again. This is one of the most well-known forms of OCD.
This is the number one most stereotyped and well-known form of OCD. Contamination OCD refers to a person who is constantly obsessing over contracting illnesses and germs or spreading those to another person. A person who struggles with contamination OCD will often find themselves obsessing over the number of germs around them and look for any ways to prevent themselves from coming in contact with those germs. If somebody has contamination OCD you might find that they are always washing their hands over and over again, they might clean the same spot repeatedly or they might avoid leaving the safety of their own home altogether.
All of these forms of OCD are just as real and as common as the others. If OCD is left untreated, it can have very serious negative impacts on a person’s quality of day-to-day life.
How is OCD Treated?
There are two common types of treatment for OCD, these are psychological therapy and medicine. Psychological therapy is a treatment option that involves helping a person who struggles with OCD to face their fears and overcome their obsessions without the use of medication. Therapy can be used as a short-term way of dealing with and overcoming more mild cases of OCD. Medicine is used for more severe cases of OCD, along with the help of long-term therapy, medications such as antidepressants can be used to help balance out the chemicals in a person’s brain and help them to overcome their OCD.
OCD is a type of Neurodiversity and it is something that many people struggle with every day. OCD is not something that makes a person any less normal than the rest of the world and it is important for those struggling to know that there are resources out there to help them deal with the impact that it has on their daily lives. This is where Theara can help.
Theara and OCD
Theara was built to support Neurodivergent people, including people with OCD. We have several life hacks, resources, and blogs to support people with OCD as they navigate their Neurodivergent life.
We also specifically crafted the Theara Academy.
The Theara Academy
Theara has created a community and resource hub for all Neurodivergent people, what Theara refers to as the Neurodiverse Collective. We created an innovative acronym-based digital training to ensure Neurodivergent live fulfilling and rewarding lives where they reach their goals, maintain meaningful relationships, and embrace who they truly are.
Here at Theara, we have 4 unique courses to support Neurodivergent people.
Know the Way at Home is a resource for parents of Neurodivergent children.
Know the Way at School is a resource for parents, teachers, and educators to navigate the Neurodivergent academic journey.
Know the Way at Work is a resource for employers, business owners, and HR representatives wanting to create a more inclusive and accommodating workplace for their Neurodivergent staff.
E.M.E.R.G.E. ND is for people wanting to remove the mask, heal the trauma and grief, reach their goals, and navigate their Neurodiversity.
Each course is tailored to a different stage of the Neurodivergent experience. Whether you’re a parent seeking to support your child, an educator wanting a more inclusive classroom, an employer ready to create a more diverse workforce, or a Neurodiverse person wanting to be themselves, then we have a course for you.
Let’s build a bridge to a brighter future, together.