Many people think Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) shows itself in non-intrusive behaviors like washing their hands constantly or turning lights on and off a certain number of times.
The truth behind the disease is more complex than that, and severity varies from person to person.
OCD is thought of in two parts, “there are obsessions (unwanted thoughts, impulses, or images that repeat in a person’s mind) and compulsions (acts that a person repeats in order to “get rid” of these obsessions). These compulsions are often done in a desperate attempt to protect oneself from the wave of anxiety the obsessions bring, not because the person actually wants to engage in the compulsion.”1 The obsessions and resulting compulsions “cause distress and get in the way of daily life.”2
Think of Howie Mandel, who offered a look into the world of someone suffering with OCD when he spoke about the disease in 2009. Mandel specifically suffers from obsessions with germs and cleanliness, and it severely affects his everyday interactions. He “always travels with a magnifying glass and black light, and never touches hotel sheets, comforters, or towels. Instead, he brings his own linens everywhere, sealed in plastic. He fist bumps as a greeting instead of a handshake, and will only fly on a private plane in fear of the germs from other passengers.”5
People who don’t understand OCD may view these actions as silly and even mock a person suffering from this disease, but it’s important to remember that OCD is not a choice; it’s a mental illness.
“The International OCD Foundation lists approximately 10 different types of obsessions and compulsions, the majority of which — including religious obsessions and mental compulsions (mentally reviewing events to prevent harm, for example) — rarely appear in public interpretations of OCD.”1
The International OCD Foundation lists these common symptoms4:
If you believe your child is experiencing behaviors associated with OCD, contact your doctor. Some medications can help relieve symptoms and improve your child’s quality of life.3