Mention Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and an image of a hand washing, public-restroom avoiding, germaphobe might come to mind. While most people know that the condition is associated with repetitive thoughts and behaviors, not everyone is aware that many forms of OCD have nothing to do with cleanliness or order. Some examples of common obsessive thoughts include worries about accidently hurting or offending people, concerns about sexual orientation, and fixations with performing tasks “just right”.
All forms of OCD involve intrusive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repeated behaviors or rituals (compulsions) to get rid of the thoughts. But not all compulsions involve outwardly observable behaviors like cleaning or checking. Other rituals -- known as "mental compulsions"— are performed entirely inside one's head and might include praying, counting, or silently repeating word or phrases. While OCD sufferers may recognize their obsessions and compulsions as irrational, they still feel driven to perform them causing a great deal of shame and confusion.
Fortunately, very effective treatment for OCD does exist. But many people suffer unnecessarily for years because of lack of information and understanding about the disorder. October 8 - 14 is the International OCD Foundation’s OCD Awareness Week. This is an opportunity the Patch’s readers to educate themselves about OCD and its treatment. A variety of IOCDF resources, including treatment providers, can be found online at www.ocfoundation.org.