The behaviours OCD makes us do.

Oh boy, compulsions! The behaviours that lead to all sorts of chaos mentally and physically. A lot of people believe that the intrusive thoughts are the problem within OCD but actually it’s the compulsions that are the problem and these are the main focus in treatment. It’s almost like compulsions let intrusive thoughts take the blame as to why someone has become so unwell with OCD.

There are four main types of compulsions categorized as the following:

Overt/physical – such as repetitive hand washing, retracing steps, turning appliances/switches on & off, leaving certain amounts of food when eating, the list is endless!

Mental – such as counting, saying specific words or phrases in your head, praying and replacing “bad thoughts” with “good thoughts”.

Reassurance Seeking – this can be physical and mental- physical would be asking someone for reassurance either in a roundabout way or straight up. This can sound like, ‘are you sure I haven’t upset you?’ or ‘did I say something rude to the cashier?’

Avoidance – does what it says on the tin – avoiding anything that triggers anxiety and/or intrusive thoughts.

A compulsion is an act that someone carries out in order to feel relief from the anxiety caused by the intrusive thought/s or even as an attempt to rid of the intrusive thoughts. Compulsions are different for every single person, even if the theme is the same as someone else. There is a massive range of compulsions, and they are basically whatever the OCD brain conjures up and decides that this is the perfect way to rid the anxiety and/or intrusive thoughts.

Compulsions are not performed by choice – just like intrusive thoughts are not a choice – but do feel like a force that one has zero control over – think of Sleeping Beauty when she’s under a spell/ in a trance like state on her way to touch the needle on the spinning wheel. this is how I personally feel when I get the intense urge to wash my hands.

Some compulsions do make sense, for instance, if I touched something my brain deemed to be physically contaminated and could make me sick I will feel the intense urge to wash my hands, perfectly acceptable train of thought (to some extent). What doesn’t make sense, however, is me washing my hands to make sure I don’t cause harm to anyone. It doesn’t make sense for me to avoid wearing certain items of clothing to ensure nothing bad happens.

However, they still have this intense feeling that the compulsion must be performed, this is because the OCD brain very rarely responds to logic and that is not the fault of the sufferer which is why its really important to have more understanding around those who have OCD because they literally cannot “just stop”.