Compulsive disorder is a very special problem that consists of two elements. One element is obsessive thoughts and the other is compulsive actions. An obsessive thought is often followed by compulsive action. Another term for obsessive-compulsive disorder is obsessive-compulsive disorder, where obsessive refers to obsessive thoughts and compulsive to compulsive actions.
Activities lead to a vicious circle
The underlying motivation for obsessive-compulsive disorder is usually fear. Sufferers of the disorder are usually well aware of the futility of their actions but cannot resist the urge. Compulsive disorder is mainly characterized by repeatedly performing certain actions, constantly checking and performing rituals. These activities in themselves can lead to more anxiety, which can create a vicious circle.
Fear of contamination and causes
A common obsessive disorder is fear of contamination. Compulsive behavior in the case of contamination consists of extensively checking the body and the environment for cleanliness. Manifestations of this include constantly cleaning everything in the environment and also frequent showering and washing clothes. Causes for fear of contamination can be: traumatic experiences, excessive pursuit of perfection, extreme sensitivity to superstition or upbringing.
Contamination and daily life
Sufferers of fear of contamination often have their entire life dominated by fear and the actions taken based on that fear. For example, someone will always wash their hands immediately after every action or physical contact with other people. Everything that others have touched must also be cleaned, even garden gates. A range of ritual actions are part of the daily work of someone with a fear of contamination.
No help because of taboo
The number of people who suffer from fear of contamination is not exactly known because usually only those in the immediate environment are aware of it or not at all. The step towards psychological help is relatively rarely taken because there is a taboo on fear of contamination. Yet fear of contamination is also a major problem for the environment, if only because of the avoidance behavior that sufferers of the fear exhibit.
Fear of danger is often not realistic
Compulsive behavior consists, for example, of performing rituals that attempt to avert disaster. The actions are not the result of a real danger, but arise from a fear of danger. An example of this is not stepping on the edge of the sidewalk. Other examples are endlessly saying a prayer or insisting on wearing a certain color of clothing for fear that something terrible will happen.
Rituals often connect two things that actually have nothing to do with each other, such as not wanting to drive past a cemetery because it would bring bad luck. Rituals also occur where it is not at all clear why they are performed, such as insisting on touching a certain object a number of times.
Lots of unnecessary energy
Obsessive thoughts can consume a lot of energy and lead to unnecessary actions. Even though it is actually clear that an action has been performed, the compulsion indicates that you need to check again. Has the gas been turned off? Is that door closed properly? Is my driver’s license in my bag? Do I have my sunglasses with me? Also thoughts like: I have to do this or that today because if I wait until tomorrow it will bring disaster, etc.
Especially in its mild form, an obsessive-compulsive disorder is often a personal secret. Who likes to openly say that they check the gas three times before going shopping? Who admits to regularly wiping the door handles or washing their hands ten times when preparing a fish dish? Nor will it be one of the first morning announcements to say that you cycle back every morning after leaving home to check whether the front door is really closed. And the somewhat unsavory ritual of checking the toilet bowl after flushing is a personal secret for everyone. But very pleasant for the next user.
Treatment of compulsive disorder
Treatment of compulsive disorder is often possible by a specialized psychologist or can at least be made milder. Sometimes a combination of behavioral therapy and medication is necessary. A psychological treatment includes the following elements:
- Making the diagnosis and making a problem analysis.
- Provide information about the method of treatment.
- Applying techniques and exercises that have proven to be effective in practice.
- Addressing any accumulated avoidance behavior.
- Evaluation and advice for the future.
A frequently applied therapy is behavioral therapy in which the patient is slightly exposed to the situation that is causing fear. By repeating this more and more intensely, a habituation process is created whereby the situation eventually only evokes a slight compulsion. Difficult situations are tackled step by step until the patient is cured of the compulsiveness.