Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors


"Compulsive" and "obsessive" have become everyday words. "I\'m
compulsive" is how some people describe their need for neatness, punctuality,
and shoes lined up in the closets. "He\'s so compulsive is shorthand for calling
someone uptight, controlling, and not much fun. "She\'s obsessed with him" is a
way of saying your friend is hopelessly lovesick. That is not how these words
are used to describe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD, a strange and
fascinating sickness of ritual and doubts run wild. OCD can begin suddenly and
is usually seen as a problem as soon as it starts.
Compulsives (a term for patients who mostly ritualize) and obsessives
(those who think of something over and over again) rarely have rituals or
thoughts about nuetral questions or behaviors. What are their rituals about?
There are several possible ways to list symptoms of OCD. All sources agree that
the most common preoccupations are dirt (washing, germs, touching), checking for
safety or closed spaces (closets, doors, drawers, appliances, light switches),
and thoughts, often thoughts about unacceptable violent, sexual, or crude
behavior.
When the thoughts and rituals of OCD are intense, the victim\'s work and
home life disintigrate. Obsessions are persistant, senseless, worrisome, and
often times, embarrassing, or frightening thoughts that repeat over and over in
the mind in an endless loop. The automatic nature of these recurant thoughts
makes them difficult for the person to ignore or restrain successfully.
The essence of a Compulsive Personality Disorder is normally found in a
restricted person, who is a perfectionist to a degree that demands that others
to submit to hisher way of doing things. A compulsive personality is also often
indecisive and excessively devoted to work to the exclusion of pleasure. When
pleasure is considered, it is something to be planned and worked for.
Pleasurable activities are usually postponed and sometimes never even enjoyed.
With severe compulsions, endless rituals dominate each day. Compulsions are
incredibly repetitive and seemingly purposeful acts that result from the
obsessions. The person performs certain acts according to certain rules or in a
stereotypical way in order to prevent or avoid unsympathetic consequences.
People with compulsive personalities tend to be excessively moralistic, and
judgmental of themselves and others.
Senseless thoughts that recur over and over again appearing out of the
blue; certain "magical" acts are repeated over and over. For some the thoughts
are meaningless like numbers, one number or several, for others they are highly
charged ideas-for example, "I have just killed someone." The intrusion into
conscious everyday thinking of such intense, repetitive, and to the victim
disgusting and alien thoughts is a dramatic and remarkable experience. You
can\'t put them out of your mind, that\'s the nature of the obsessions.
Some patients are "checkers," they check lights, doors, locks-ten,
twenty or a hundred times. Others spend hours producing unimportant symmetry.
Shoelaces must be exactly even, eyebrows identical to eachother. A case studied
by the well-known art therapist, Judith Aron Rubin, Rubin tells of a young girl
named Mary, who suffers from OCD, and how she drives her fellow waitresses
frantic because she goes into a tailspin if the salt and pepper she has arranged
in a certain order has been moved around. All of the OCD problems have common
themes: you can\'t trust good judgment, you can\'t trust your eyes that see no
dirt, or really believe that the door is locked. You know you have done nothing
harmful but in spite of this good sense you must go on checking and counting.
There are many, many common obsessions, of all of them the most common
is called "washing" this involves the victim to have a constant feeling of
conamination, dirt andor grime all over their body. The book,The Boy Who
Couldn\'t Stop Washing by Judith L. Rapoport describes a long, sad case of a
young boy who spent three or more hours in the shower each day. The boy "felt
sure" that there was some sticky substance on his skin. He thought of nothing
else.
Our normal functioning probably consists of constant uncountable
checking, a sort of radar operation, that we could not do contiously and still
act efficiently. Something has gone wrong with the process for obsessive
compulsives, the usual shut-off such as "my hands are clean enough" or "I saw
the gas was turned off on the stove" or "The door was locked." does not get
through. Everyday life becomes dominated by doubts, leading to senseless
repetition and ritual.
Obsessive phobias tend to have distinct features. According to Issac
Marks, "They are usually part of a variety of fears of potential situations
themselves. Because of the vagueness of these possibilities, ripples of
avoidance and