Living with OCD

“I like to group my clothes by colour, I’m so OCD about that kind of thing.” “I’m so OCD, that I like to double check if my door is locked before I leave in the morning.”

People are often quick to say they have OCD when they just like arranging things in a certain way, when in reality, OCD is a more serious condition and should not be thrown around like a synonym for “likes to organize”. OCD, short for “obsessive-compulsive disorder”, is a condition characterized by a combination of unwanted fears (obsessions), leading to repetitive (compulsive) behaviours. Although it is found that only about 1% of Canadians will experience OCD, this can be due to the fact that it is harder to diagnose and people may not find a reason to get diagnosed. For example, some people only experience obsessions or only compulsions, while others experience both.

Symptoms must be severe enough to affect one’s daily life in order to be considered a disorder, which is why many are misdiagnosed or are not diagnosed at all, as this can be difficult to measure. In terms of obsessions, there are some common themes that people experience in relation to: fear of germs, difficulty tolerating uncertainty and disorder, uncontrollable thoughts of losing control and causing harm to yourself or others. In terms of compulsions, they are related to certain obsessions and are thus also categorized into common themes. For example, some compulsion themes include, cleaning, double checking, recounting, routine work, and demanding constant reassurance. OCD symptoms usually start in adolescence or young adult years, but can start as early as childhood as well. These symptoms can vary in severity at different times in life as more stress during a certain time can ultimately worsen symptoms.

This disorder can look different from one person to another, as the symptoms can vary drastically, which thus, makes it difficult to diagnose. In addition, the causes are not well known, but it may be a result from changes in natural brain chemistry involving certain hormones and neurotransmitters. It is also shown that these obsessions and compulsions can be learned from the people you are surrounded by or gradually learned over time. Furthermore, family history and stressful life events are common risk factors of OCD, while it is also associated with other mental health disorders such as, anxiety disorders.

There is no known way to prevent this from occurring, but it is diagnosed through psychological evaluation to determine if someone has obsessions or compulsions that interfere with their quality of life. A physical exam may be done to ensure that these behaviours are not caused by other diseases or disorders. Some medications that are commonly used to control and treat these unwanted behaviours are antidepressants such as Clomipramine, Fluoxetine, and Paroxetine. Talk to our team of pharmacists at Guildview Pharmacy for more information about getting diagnosed and learning how to control your disorder.

Written by: Pritika Thevasingha

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