Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by obssesions and compulsions.
According to the International OCD Foundation, "Obsessions are thoughts, images or impulses that occur over and over again and feel outside of the person’s control.
Individuals with OCD do not want to have these thoughts and find them disturbing. In most cases, people with OCD realize that these thoughts don’t make any sense.
Obsessions are typically accompanied by intense and uncomfortable feelings such as fear, disgust, doubt, or a feeling that things have to be done in a way that is 'just right.' In the context of OCD, obsessions are time consuming and get in the way of important activities the person values. This last part is extremely important to keep in mind as it, in part, determines whether someone has OCD — a psychological disorder — rather than an obsessive personality trait."
The IOCDF states that "Compulsions are the second part of obsessive compulsive disorder. These are repetitive behaviors or thoughts that a person uses with the intention of neutralizing, counteracting, or making their obsessions go away.
People with OCD realize this is only a temporary solution but without a better way to cope they rely on the compulsion as a temporary escape. Compulsions can also include avoiding situations that trigger obsessions. Compulsions are time consuming and get in the way of important activities the person values."
Understanding the Science of OCD
The Vicious Cycle
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a cycle. It is maintained by doing compulsions and/or avoiding triggers entirely. Compulsions and avoidance only reduce anxiety temporarily. When the anxiety returns it often intensifies.
The increasing anxiety then encourages the invidiual with OCD to go to greater lengths to experience the temporary relief. These greater lengths include perfoming more and more compulsions OR going to more extreme measures to avoid triggers. This cycle is stopped with effective treatment with Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (ERP).