Disorder or OCD
following sound like you?
couldn't do anything without rituals. They invaded every aspect of my
life. Counting really bogged me down. I would wash my hair three times as
opposed to once because three was a good luck number and one wasn't. It
took me longer to read because I'd count the lines in a paragraph. When I
set my alarm at night, I had to set it to a number that wouldn't add up to
a 'bad' number."
"I knew the rituals didn't make sense, and I was deeply ashamed of them,
but I couldn't seem to overcome them until I had therapy."
"Getting dressed in the morning was tough, because I had a routine, and if
I didn't follow the routine, I'd get anxious and would have to get dressed
again. I always worried that if I didn't do something, my parents were
going to die. I'd have these terrible thoughts of harming my parents. That
was completely irrational, but the thoughts triggered more anxiety and
more senseless behavior. Because of the time I spent on rituals, I was
unable to do a lot of things that were important to me."
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have persistent, upsetting
thoughts (obsessions) and use rituals (compulsions) to control the anxiety
these thoughts produce. Most of the time, the rituals end up controlling
For example, if people are obsessed with germs or dirt, they may develop a
compulsion to wash their hands over and over again. If they develop an
obsession with intruders, they may lock and relock their doors many times
before going to bed. Being afraid of social embarrassment may prompt
people with OCD to comb their hair compulsively in front of a
mirror-sometimes they get "caught" in the mirror and can't move away from
it. Performing such rituals is not pleasurable. At best, it produces
temporary relief from the anxiety created by obsessive thoughts.
Other common rituals are a need to repeatedly check things, touch things
(especially in a particular sequence), or count things. Some common
obsessions include having frequent thoughts of violence and harming loved
ones, persistently thinking about performing sexual acts the person
dislikes, or having thoughts that are prohibited by religious beliefs.
People with OCD may also be preoccupied with order and symmetry, have
difficulty throwing things out (so they accumulate), or hoard unneeded
Healthy people also have rituals, such as checking to see if the stove is
off several times before leaving the house. The difference is that people
with OCD perform their rituals even though doing so interferes with daily
life and they find the repetition distressing. Although most adults with
OCD recognize that what they are doing is senseless, some adults and most
children may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary.
OCD affects about 2.2 million American adults,1 and the problem
can be accompanied by eating disorders,6 other anxiety disorders, or
depression.2,4 It strikes men and women in roughly equal
numbers and usually appears in childhood, adolescence, or early
adulthood.2 One-third of adults with OCD develop symptoms as children, and
research indicates that OCD might run in families.3
The course of the disease is quite varied. Symptoms may come and go, ease
over time, or get worse. If OCD becomes severe, it can keep a person from
working or carrying out normal responsibilities at home. People with OCD
may try to help themselves by avoiding situations that trigger their
obsessions, or they may use alcohol or drugs to calm themselves.4,5
OCD usually responds well to treatment with certain medications and/or
exposure-based psychotherapy, in which people face situations that cause
fear or anxiety and become less sensitive (desensitized) to them.
Alpha-Stim® treatment also has the potential to dramatically
decrease the anxiety associated with OCD. Ask your doctor to see if
it's right for you, or call us at 1-888-END-ANXIETY (363-2694) for
1. Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence,
severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National
Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General
Psychiatry, 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.
2. Robins LN, Regier DA, eds. Psychiatric disorders in America: the
Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study. New York: The Free Press, 1991.
3. The NIMH Genetics Workgroup. Genetics and mental disorders. NIH
Publication No. 98-4268. Rockville, MD: National Institute of Mental
4. Regier DA, Rae DS, Narrow WE, et al. Prevalence of anxiety
disorders and their comorbidity with mood and addictive disorders. British
Journal of Psychiatry Supplement, 1998; (34): 24-8.
5. Kushner MG, Sher KJ, Beitman BD. The relation between alcohol
problems and the anxiety disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1990;