OCD is a common disorder but the patients don’t seek any psychiatric help. It is mainly because general population is not aware of such disorder. The symptoms are considered as if patient is deliberately doing such activities. The patient’s concerns and fears are construed as bad and annoying habits. Due to continuous ridicule, they don’t come out to see a mental health professional.
OCD generally present as repetitive thoughts which are quite distressing to the patient. The patient doesn’t want to entertain the thoughts and ignores them. But they keep coming despite the patient’s rigorous efforts. Initially, patient is able to resist them and continue their daily activities. They ignore the thoughts and surrounding people are not aware of the patient’s agony. However, as the time passes, the thoughts become so disturbing that it becomes visible in the behaviors. At this time, they need proper psychiatric evaluation and treatment but due to ignorance, they don’t consult anyone.
To properly understand, we can take an example of the commonly observed OCD symptom. In one type, the patient feels that their surroundings are dirty. They clean the area but don’t get satisfaction and repeat the cleaning. They consider the cleaning to be incomplete and feel as if some dirt is left and that dirt might cause problem to them or their loved ones. Initially, they understand that their concern is irrational and they resist the cleaning. Even if the thought of dirtiness continues to be in their mind, they ignore and carry out their routine responsibilities. As the duration increases, they become unable to resist the thoughts. Despite knowing that the thoughts are wrong, they give up and repeatedly clean the area again and again. They don’t get satisfaction by cleaning once or twice but rather do it multiple times.
Due to repeatedly doing the same activity, they spend most of their time in those tasks and keep ignoring their other responsibilities. Some patients would waste liters of water even if there gets shortage of water. They sometimes also start asking other people to carry on similar activities and force them to involve in those things. With time, the illness becomes so severe that they stop going outside for the fear of getting contaminated.
Apart from dirt and contamination, there can be checking, sexual thoughts, aggressive thoughts and many more. Due to delay in management, patients face so much distress that they remain anxious for most of the time, their job and family responsibilities suffer, and their overall functioning gets severely affected. Even at this stage, no one asks them to consult a psychiatrist and they keep visiting all odd places and are fooled by occults and many non-scientific treatments.
To conclude, I want to convey that this problem is pretty common in the general population. The main concern is that it is very frequently ignored and thus progress uncontrollably. Even if coming to attention, the person having this problem doesn’t get proper treatment. So, if we want to help our society, our friends and relatives, we must understand that this is a REAL DISORDER and POTENTIALLY CURABLE. What is needed is just proper recognition and treatment by professionals trained to manage this illness.
Dr. Ankit Chaudhary
MBBS, MD (Psychiatry)