In my last post I mentioned briefly that I had some kind of social phobia when I was younger. However, I have yet another disorder which affects my life to this day: obsessive–compulsive disorder or OCD for short. If you have never heard of this condition, here is a brief description of OCD.
At least 1 % of the adult population is affected by OCD and according to World Health Organization OCD is in the top ten most disabling illnesses in the world (in terms of lost income and decreased quality of life).
Here is a short video that tries to show in a humorous way what it’s like to have OCD:
It is important to say though that people with OCD do not really have hallucinations – they see no annoying man shouting, as is the case in this video. Rather they get disturbing thoughts (obsessions) connected with certain unpleasant feeling (e.g. fear) that drive them to do the compulsions (for example, correct alignment of the painting). For the OCD victim there seems to be no other way to escape these disturbing thoughts except by doing the compulsions. In reality, yielding to the compulsion only works for a short time, and makes symptoms worse in the long run.
My OCD symptoms are generally quite mild, though they vary over time. However, they do bring a lot of stress into my life. I have had a wide variety of symptoms of OCD, but they have changed over time: nowadays I am not so concerned with contamination so I don’t wash hands so much any more. Nor do I hoard things so much anymore (for example, for a period of time I used to collect magazines that I haven’t read yet, to read them “later” which amounted to a lot of magazines – I just threw them away one day without ever reading them).
My biggest problem now is checking – especially making sure that I locked the house or the car. It is always stressful locking a car for me: I have to check four doors and a trunk! Plus four windows, too! If I am already stressed because of other things in my life, my OCD symptoms get worse. I am compelled to do a “full” car check, which consist of touching every window at the top to make sure it is really closed (bizarre, I know), and checking every door. If somebody or something (like a noise) interrupts me while doing the check, I have to do it once more from the beginning. If I don’t do it, then I get a feeling (worry, fear) that something bad might happen (like somebody will steal my car – which is another nonsense as my car is a piece of junk). If I am not so stressed at the time, then a “partial” car check may be sufficient: I only need to check doors and windows that I know I have opened (I don’t have central locking system).
I have lived with OCD for quite a long time now, but didn’t do much about it. As I said, my symptoms were quite mild most of the time, so I just learned to live with it (almost nobody even knows I have OCD as I have told that to only a couple of people.). However, I noticed that it became really detrimental to my health in terms of stress that is causing me. Some of the stress stems from trying to resist compulsions or reduce them (e.g. only checking something once or twice, instead of many times).
I figured out that it is time to do something about this problem, so I bought a book titled “Overcoming obsessive-compulsive disorder” (written by David Veale and Rob Willson). I am in the process of reading it, and I may post a review of this book here someday. A few days ago I also watched movie The Aviator with Leonardo DiCaprio starring as Howard Hughes, one of the most famous persons known to have had OCD. It is a good movie and I wish I had watched it when it came out, five years ago, as it shows how serious OCD can be.