What is OCD?
OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, is a type of anxiety disorder. When someone has this disorder, they may experience obsessions, compulsions, or both. These obsessions and compulsions can really interfere with a person’s life and cause them a great deal of distress at times. This, understandably, could be especially difficult for someone who is responsible for the care of a loved one.
What are obsessions?
Obsessions are unpleasant and unwanted thoughts that are difficult to get rid of. Sometimes a certain idea or thought may pop into the head of someone with OCD and they may have a lot of trouble not dwelling on it. These thoughts can become so intrusive that they end up overpowering a person, causing their mind to be dominated by obsessions. Obsessive thoughts can be violent, offensive, and sometimes just annoying. Common obsessions include:
- Fears of hurting others or oneself deliberately
- Fears of hurting others or oneself by mistake
- Constant worry that something bad is going to happen
- Need for order and organization
- Fears of germs, contamination, or infection
- Need for symmetry
What are compulsions?
Compulsions are things that a person with OCD does in order to minimize the anxiety or distress they feel from their obsessions. This behaviour is typically irrational or excessive. However, the people doing these things are usually unaware of the extent of irrationality involved in their compulsions. Someone who has an obsession with harming themselves or others by mistake may compulsively check and recheck door locks, window locks, and cookers in order to ensure the house is safe and secure. Similarly, someone who has a fear of germs or contamination may spend excessive amounts of time washing in order to neutralize the troublesome thoughts. Common compulsions include:
- Checking and rechecking
- Excessive washing
- Excessive cleaning
- Asking for assurance repeatedly
- Ordering and rearranging
- Repeating words aloud or in their head
- Avoiding certain places or situations that may be triggering
Multiple factors can contribute to a person developing OCD. The disorder tends to run in families, so genetics seem to be a key factor in developing OCD. Those with the disorder also have actual structural and chemical differences in the brain as compared to the brains of those without the disorder. In addition to this, certain life events also can cause a person to develop OCD. Stressful or anxiety-inducing events like bullying, abuse, or neglect can also bring out or worsen the disorder in some people.
How can OCD affect me as a carer?
Distressing thoughts and time-consuming compulsions can understandably impact a carer’s ability to effectively care for their loved one(s). Because there are a lot of social, behavioural, and emotional areas that are impacted by the disorder, one’s functioning may be hindered when their anxiety is worse. Carers are commonly under a lot of stress simply because of the nature of their roles. Stress can worsen OCD symptoms which can further affect the person’s functioning. Eventually, there is a chance that these obsessions and compulsions will get in the way of caring responsibilities. The good news is that OCD is completely treatable and there are many places that you can go for support!
Need more support?
If you think that you or the person that you care for has OCD and that you need some more support, Suffolk Carers Matter would be happy to help! We offer free support, advice, and guidance and even have a free counselling service available should you need it!
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