Thursday, April 18, 2024

Understanding OCD beyond stereotypes

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OCD isn’t limited to the neatly-folded towels and colour-coded shelves. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a condition millions worldwide are caught in its grip. Imagine a record stuck on a single, anxious verse, playing over and over until the melody becomes one’s reality. That is what having OCD feels like. It’s not about being overly organised; it’s about an invisible leash pulling you back into the same worry, the same action, a million times over.
For people suffering from OCD, an invisible enemy – germs – lurk on every surface, a constant threat in the mind of a young professional. Every handshake, doorknob, or public transport encounter leaves behind anxiety. The only response? Hours spent scrubbing hands raw, with soap and water. But the relief is fleeting, the fear an omnipresent, urging them to repeat the act.
These are just glimpses into the unfiltered reality of OCD. It’s not about quirky habits or spotless houses; it’s a relentless tug-of-war between reason and fear. To paint a picture, Imagine trying to work while your inner thoughts keep interrupting you, stopping you from reaching your deadlines and throw off your productivity creating an overall sense of stress. This is just the tip of an ice berg for someone diagnosed with OCD.
But it doesn’t stop there, social interactions can become a tedious task. Compulsions take over, filled with doubts and urging rituals that create distance and confusion. Then imagine trying to have a conversation while your mind fixates on invisible contaminants or the need for a specific order. OCD is a disruption that impacts every aspect of life. However, it’s important to remember that hope exists. Of utmost importance is giving the individual immense and constant support from family and loved ones, keep them motivated to fight the battle.
OCD isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. It is different for different individuals.  For some, it takes the form of unwanted, aggressive thoughts that claw at the edges of their mind, or chilling fears of harming loved ones that send shivers down their spine. Others might be haunted by invisible enemies – germs on every surface, demanding constant decontamination rituals. Doubts and incompleteness are often felt, hoping to reach the perfectionism stage.
Every experience is unique, every struggle valid. And even though OCD might try to convince one otherwise, with understanding and support, there’s hope for managing these themes, finding peace, and rewriting one’s story, one small victory at a time.
With OCD, treatment acts as a compass, guiding individuals towards managing it.  Medication might offer a helping hand, calming the brain’s internal chatter. Therapy, like CBT, equips individuals with tools to outsmart intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviours. Support groups become a priority, offering shared experiences and encouragement.
Importantly, empathy cannot be comprised. Imagine walking a mile in their shoes, where intrusive thoughts whisper doubts and compulsions demand attention. Cultivating compassion means listening to their stories, not judging their struggles.
In essence, celebrating the resilience of those living with OCD should be a powerful start to a taboo breaker. Everyone suffering from OCD is a warrior, facing their inner storms with unwavering courage. Every story of hope, every step towards recovery, becomes an inspiration, urging others to seek help and take charge into their own hands.

(The author, Vijaya Dhulipudi, is a Counselling Lead, at Praan Mental Wellness.)

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