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Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour and OCD

In order to achieve and do well at something we probably all need to be a bit ‘obsessional’ at times. It helps us to persevere and to focus on the task at hand. In fact many people of considerable intellectual achievement are somewhat obsessional. Freud himself thought that if he was suffering from a neurosis it probably would be of the obsessional kind.

However, whilst the drive towards attaining mastery, control and order is valuable when in moderation, when it is exaggerated it is destructive of spontaneity. Trying to manage and control an external and internal world that is perceived to be dangerous, the individual may become preoccupied with the illusion of creating a future where everything is safe, understood and predictable. This happens at the expense of living in the here and now.

It is when the above dynamics are magnified that we may speak of somebody suffering from OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). Obsessive compulsive symptoms may take the form of unwanted thoughts, ruminating thoughts, or ritual actions, which the person feels compelled to do against their will.

Some people only experience obsessive thoughts without having any compulsions, others have compulsions; without knowing why they feel the need to do them. Common compulsions include continually washing one’s hands, ordering or arranging things, excessive hoarding, and repeatedly checking things. Common obsessions include imagining doing harm, fearing your aggressive urges, excessive doubts, needing things to be perfect and fearing contamination.

Those who suffer often describe themselves as being caught in a loop that they can't break out of. Both obsessive thoughts and compulsions are, however, defences against a deeper, underlying fear of engaging in and dealing with personal relationships. Today most sufferers can be successfully treated, at least to some degree, by working through their anxieties.