What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Self-Harm?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, more commonly known as OCD is a form of Anxiety that can affect people from all walks of life at any age. OCD occurs when a person gets stuck in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are depicted by intrusive thoughts, images or impulses. Compulsions are repetitive behaviours or mental acts that are often performed to alleviate the Anxiety caused by the obsessions. These thoughts and behaviours are usually very distressing and time-consuming.
Common obsessions include fear of contamination, fear of hurting oneself or others, violent or sexually explicit thoughts or images, religious or moral ideas. Common compulsions include checking, counting, hoarding, ordering or arranging.
Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
OCD is a very serious disorder as it can significantly raise stress levels in the sufferer. Once it is recognised, it should be treated in a timely manner. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder also includes other behaviours such as:
- Excessive hand-washing
- Constant rearranging of things
- Aversions to odd numbers
- Walking in certain patterns
- Mentally reshuffling items or events
- Lifestyle extremes (religion, sexual behaviours, aggressive behaviours, etc.)
- Unwarranted paranoia
- Having the urge to touch things (or people)
- Having the disgust of things touching you
- Compulsive self-harm
For a long time, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder has been overlooked and thought to have been the results of bad parenting or mere side effects from extreme experiences or accidents, this is not so. It has been agreed by scholars that both psychological and biological factors commence OCD. Scientific evidence suggests that it is rooted from a chemical imbalance in the brain.
OCD is not limited to any particular race, gender, ethnic background, or age group. However, it is most commonly unveiled during childhood, through the young adult ages. Because of this, it has been misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed for other more common issues.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder tends to worsen with age. The urges become stronger and the invasive thoughts become more potent and reacted upon more meticulously. Having OCD diagnosed early on makes the treatments a lot more effective, because the resulted habits and rituals get harder to break as time passes.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can be hard to recognise because it is a psychological disorder and can be mistaken for other problems. Since it is hard to recognise something that one cannot see for him/herself, when looking from the inside out, OCD behaviour could be “normal” and overlooked by the sufferer. However, if in question, when you have some habits or rituals that must be performed, then Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder may be present.
To be diagnosed with OCD, a person must have obsessions, compulsions, or both, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
People with OCD have an obsession with particular actions or reactions, and they all start with intrusive thoughts or mental images that play in their mind uncontrollably. Urges may occur that they must act upon. People with OCD usually recognise that their actions may not be corresponding to the world around them, but their impulse to react in their ritualistic manner is too overwhelming for them not to perform.
There are different types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, some behaviours are physically more harmful than others. One of the most common physically dangerous compulsive disorders is Compulsive Self-Harm.
This is a pattern of inflicting pain or wounds on one's body in response to emotional distress. Injuries may range from the superficial to wounds requiring treatment.
Common types of self-harm are:
- biting or hitting oneself
- cutting oneself with a sharp object
- burning oneself with heat or chemicals
For those who do not self-harm, it may be difficult to understand how harming one's body provides emotional relief. For the self-injurer, the symptom helps them cope with their feelings. There are numerous and varied reasons why a person might self-harm. Some of these include:
- To help externalise emotional internal pain. The physical pain becomes a welcome distraction from emotional pain
- To relieve intense feelings of Anxiety
- To release anger
- To punish self (related to an overwhelming self-loathing)
- To control pain (as opposed to external abuse - e.g. sexual or physical which is beyond the individual's control)
- To manipulate others (e.g. instil a sense of guilt)
- To break emotional numbness (the ability to cut without feeling pain)
- To attract attention (cry for help)
- The act of self-harm becomes a way to communicate feelings to others without using words, to show others hurt or angry feelings through actions.
- To be able to feel anything (instead of a sense of "numbness") Some self-harmers feel numb or cut off from their feelings. Some even report feeling invisible or unreal. The act of self-injuring helps them feel more grounded and connected to themselves.
- The pain from self-harm can release chemicals in the brain called endorphins. These are the same chemicals that cause athletes to get a 'runner's high.' This pleasurable feeling takes away feelings of stress or depression. Many self-harmers experience several of these phenomena. This makes self-harm a dependable coping strategy despite its often severe consequences.
Help for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Self-Harm
Just like Compulsive Self-Harm the feeling of being dirty, the uncontrollable thoughts of sexual behaviours, constant touching, arranging and rearranging items, and the need to make a quantity of an even number, are all symptoms of OCD. Do not ignore these thoughts and behaviours, seek professional help.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and self-harm can be cured. It is often treated with medication and Psychotherapy or Behaviour Therapy. Anti-depressants, of various types, are commonly used to treat OCD and are most effective when combined with Therapy and Counselling. Contact us to receive your free E-book called Understanding OCD. If you are interested in receiving support for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder visit your Doctor and explain your situation. You can also contact Organisations for help:
Mind - for Better Mental Health.
OCD Action - UK OCD Charity
OCD UK - A National Charity run by and for people who have experienced OCD
Mental Health Foundation - Self-Harm