Obsessions & Compulsions
Obsessions and compulsions or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Compulsions are not the same as obsessions and the two are often confused.
What’s the difference?
Let’s look at an example. A person can have a compulsion to tidy their home. They do this and feel an immediate sense of satisfaction for doing so. When the task is complete, the thought process I must tidy my house disappears … and the person feels much better, turning a negative situation (untidy house) into a positive, satisfying one (tidy house).
With an obsession however, the sufferer broods and ruminates about the task (or thought). The thoughts come more and more often, until the person becomes preoccupied with them. The obsessive act (or thought) is usually about the deferment of punishment. The difficulty is, that unlike the compulsive, the obsessive feels no reward at all for performing his task (or thought): he/she feels no relief, no satisfaction, nothing at all. So, minutes (or hours) later, the brooding and ruminating returns.
With a compulsion, the sufferer feels an immediate benefit, with an obsession, there is no benefit (apart from having deferred their worries for a few minutes).
Obsessions are recurrent thoughts, beliefs or ideas that dominate a person’s mind. They affect both men and women from all ages and often occur in people that are already something of a perfectionist or who are anxious to get everything to be just right.
Obsessions can include:
- Counting ritual
- Checking things repeatedly e.g. locks, windows, doors, ovens etc
- Elaborate absurd rituals e.g. if you bump one side of your body you have to hit the other side to even things up
- Constant negative thoughts or worry
- Chronic Insomnia
- Worry about dirt or contamination
- Repeated hand washing
- Being obsessive about health or disease or bodily symptoms (that transfer from one thing to the next quite rapidly)
- Obsessive jealousy or worry about partner
There is often the dominating thought that if the task (e.g. counting / checking things) isn’t carried out… then something bad or unpleasant is going to happen. Obsessionals find it difficult to let go of things or stop worrying / brooding and their worries may transfer from one thing to the next rapidly.
As far as a professional therapist is concerned OCD is really an obsessional neurosis.
With compulsive behaviour the person does feel some reward…they get some satisfaction and escape from life for a while. The more stress (and anxiety) the person feels, the stronger their compulsions, and the more they will carry out their compulsive behaviour, often resulting in feelings of guilt (I shouldn’t have done that, I’ll stop tomorrow).
Compulsive behaviour can include:
- Drinking (where drinking alcohol is excessive or out of control)
- Nail biting
- Comfort eating / overeating
- Drug addictions
- Impulse control problems e.g. cutting, burning or scratching oneself.
If you are suffering from any of the above obsessive or compulsive symptoms please contact us for a ‘initial consultation’. If your symptom is not listed please remember that the list is not exhaustive and we can still help even though there is no reference.