Research conducted by Mathews, Kaur and Stein at the University of California examined the association between childhood trauma and the development of symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms.
It was found that those individuals who had experienced emotional abuse or physical abuse in childhood were significantly more likely than those who had not to suffer from symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
In this article, I will briefly describe the most common obsessions / compulsions / rituals from which individuals with OCD or OCD-like symptoms suffer.
Most Common Obsessions / Compulsions / Rituals :
These are as follows :
- Fear of ‘contamination’
- Excessive checking
- Intrusive, disturbing, uncontrollable thoughts
- Excessive hoarding
- Excessive concern with ‘ordering’ and symmetry
Let’s briefly look at each of these in turn :
1) FEAR OF ‘CONTAMINATION’ – the individual who suffers from this is excessively concerned about germs, bacteria and anything that might harbour these such as other people, door handles, household surfaces, bathrooms, light switches etc.
For example, someone who is severely affected may feel compelled to wash their hands dozens, or even hundreds, of times a day to (very temporarily) ease their anxiety, or only use a door handle if their hand is protected by a glove / handkerchief / tissue etc.
2) EXCESSIVE CHECKING – a person who suffers from this feels driven to excessively check such things as that the door has been locked, the gas cooker has been switched off, the windows have been shut and locked etc.
For example, someone suffering from this type of OCD may check s/he has locked the front door behind him/her, get into his/her car and start to drive to work only to become anxious s/he didn’t ‘properly’ check the door was locked to the extent that after five minutes of driving s/he turns the car around and goes home to recheck that the door actually is locked. Having done this, s/he may restart the drive only to turn the car around again after a few minutes to make absolutely sure the front door is locked. S/he may repeat this scenario numerous times before s/he has reduced his/her anxiety enough to finally make it into work.
3) INTRUSIVE, DISTURBING, UNCONTROLLABLE THOUGHTS – someone who suffers from this finds s/he is ‘mentally bombarded’ by unwanted, distressing, disturbing and upsetting thoughts that s/he feels s/he cannot control.
For example, s/he may fear s/he will seriously hurt someone, even his/her own children, commit some unspeakable crime, or act on inappropriate sexual impulses (even though s/he has never acted on such thoughts and abhors any prospect of doing so).
Indeed, there was a famous example of a man who chained himself to the bed every night as he feared that, otherwise, he might rise in his sleep ( this is sometimes referred to as somnambulism), commit some appalling crime in his unconscious state and, as a consequence, spend the rest of his life in jail.
4) EXCESSIVE HOARDING – an individual with this disorder can’t bring him/herself to throw away / obsessively collects useless or broken material and objects often to the point that his/her living environment becomes cluttered to a degree that is both unsafe and unhygienic (see image below).
Above : an example of the results of obsessive hoarding.
5) EXCESSIVE CONCERN WITH ‘ORDERING’ AND SYMMETRY – someone suffering this disorder feels strongly compelled to arrange things (such as household objects and contents of fridges/cupboards) with painstaking, meticulous, absolute precision.
Another well known way in which this disorder manifests itself is aa a compulsion to precisely line up items (such as knives, plates, bowls and forks etc) at one’s table in restaurants ; Oscar Wilde developed this compulsion in Paris following his release from Reading Gaol and subsequent flight from England (see photo and caption below).
Above : Oscar Wilde (left) and Lord Alfred (Bosie) Douglas. At the time this picture was taken Wilde suffered a compulsion to ‘precisely order’ the items on his table following his harrowing two years in Reading Gaol and being forced there to set his table for meals with ‘military’ precision. Circa 1899.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).