My aunt once told me “There’s an OC lying in each one of us.”
I’m starting to think she’s right. Each one of us have obsessions that may sound logical to us but may seem absurd to other people. Like how I couldn’t understand why she throws a fit when bills aren’t paid on the same day you got the bill. Or why I am overprotective (and most of the time exaggerating) of my family members and loved because of my constant worry that they’re caught in freak accidents or are being attacked to death. Or why a friend of mine couldn’t stop running after people to pick up their trash in parties and get-togethers.
Being such a worrier is a human nature we all exhibit, but if it borders to being irrational, inflexible and annoying and if it interferes with our relationships, then we might have a problem. You might be suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive disorder and not know it.
Having obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors do not necessarily mean you’re suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, but if you recognize these symptoms in yourself or someone you know, then you might want to set up an appointment with your doctor or talk to your loved ones about it.
If you’ve got these symptoms, the doctor will run a series of test before they do a diagnosis. These test consist of physical exam (checking of vital signs, heart rate, blood pressure), laboratory tests (CBC, thyroid function tests, alcohol and drug screening) and psychological evaluation (the doctor will talk to your loved ones or you and asks you questions like -“Do you have certain thought or images that keeps coming back to you hear even if you try to keep them out? or “Do these thoughts “make sense” to you or do they seem willy or absurd?”)
If you are diagnosed with such, there are two kind of treatments available to help you. The first is simply medication and the second is therapy. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors or antidepressants may help reduce some of the anxiety and depression from this condition. Drug treatment is easier to administer and does not cause significant patient discomfort, but it may still have some side effects, that’s why doctors say that therapy is more effective.
Therapy, though, has a long-term effect. Initially, it entails repeated exposure to the obsession without doing whatever compulsive behaviors he/she might have developed because of this obsession. The patient may get anxious for a while but will soon be able to relax without resorting to the compulsive behavior.
If you’re diagnosed with such, you actually don’t need the constant presence of a psychologist to treat yourself. You can help yourself by doing the following:
Acknowledge that your behavior is a result of an absurd or silly obsession. You cannot make the obsessive urges go away but you can choose not to pay attention to it.
Divert your attention to something else. Write down your OCD urges whenever they kick in. Write them all down so you will see how repetitive they are and at the same time, it will allow you to refocus your attention to the action of writing it down instead of giving in to your compulsive behavior.
Create a support group. Reconnect with family and friends. Tell them to remind you that you’re just experiencing OCD urges and that there are other things that you could concentrate on.
Take care of yourself. Eat healthy. Long gaps between each meal leads to low blood sugar which can make you feel anxious. Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables as they also boost serotonin, a neurotransmitter with calming effects.
Exercise regularly. It can help your mind refocus on other things when your obsessions and compulsions kick in. Endorphins, the brain’s feel-good chemicals, are also released when you exercise.
Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can also aggravate anxious thoughts and feelings. It’s easier to be have emotional balance when you’re well rested.
Avoid alcohol and nicotine. Alcohol temporarily reduces anxiety and worry, but it can cause anxiety as it wears off. Initially, cigarettes may have a calming effect, but nicotine is actually a powerful stimulant that can give you a higher level of anxiety.
Your brain which is producing all these obsessions and compulsions may be that powerful, but it doesn’t mean that you cannot control it.
It’s all up to you.