OCD and Mental Illness

 

by Marion Bono
by Marion Bono

OCD AND MENTAL ILLNESS

 OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) is America’s “hidden epidemic.” One person in 40 will develop OCD in their lifetime, one-third of these by the age of 15. Over 400,000 children have OCD. Also, many people with OCD have co-existing disorders: 66% have Major Depression, 26% suffer from panic attacks.

 

Thanks to Howie Mandel, “America’s Got Talent,” for being forthcoming about his Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder and Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. When a well-known person comes out about his mental illness, stigma is reduced. The public sees a talented, successful person who happens to have a mental illness. Howie is a comedian who likes to have fun, but this does not diminish the debilitating effect these illnesses have had on his life. On www.lifescript.com, Howie states, “If I didn’t take my meds, I wouldn’t be here. I would be locked up in a room somewhere.” In his book, Here’s the Deal, Don’t Touch Me (Bantam), he writes honestly about his mental health issues and how they have shaped his life.

 

What is an obsession?

What is a compulsion?

What conditions have been added to the new official diagnostic manual for OCD?

 

Obsessions are recurrent thoughts, images and impulses which invade the mind, causing INTOLERABLE ANXIETY. These preoccupations make no sense, or are repulsive, or revolve around themes of violence and harm. The most common obsessions are fear of contamination, excessive concern about objects “having to be” in a certain order; thinking you have injured someone, or left something on (or unlocked); horrible impulses to hurt a loved one; gross sexual imagery; hoarding.

 

Some people who are excessively neat and orderly often refer to themselves as OCD; however, this is far more serious,intrusive, and debilitating than being a “neat freak.”

 

Compulsions relieve the UNBEARABLE ANXIETY related to the obsession. The person is driven to perform specific repetitive ritualized behaviors calculated to reduce his/her discomfort. These behaviors take on a life of their own, literally imprisoning the individual in a pattern of peculiar activities: hand washing or showering, compulsive house cleaning, excessive ordering and arranging; incessant checking and re-checking; repetitive counting, touching and activity rituals; excessive slowness in daily activities like eating and brushing teeth; constant demands for reassurance that the perceived threat has been removed.

 

People with OCD are usually not delusional, nor are they having hallucinations. But they cannot control their compulsive responses to the impulses driving their anxiety. Most victims of this illness try to hide and cover up behaviors they believe are totally “off the wall.” This capacity to recognize their behavior as “excessive and unreasonable” is one criteria for the diagnosis of OCD. However, a significant number of individuals with OCD lack this insight, particularly during the throes of an episode, or if they suffer from the severe form of the illness.

 

The ritual compulsions of OCD vary from mild (known only to the sufferer), to constant and extreme (occupying hours a day and involving family members in ritual activities). A diagnosis of OCD is made when obsessions and compulsions become so marked that they interfere with social and occupational activities, or cause intense subjective distress.

 

Other disorders included in the recently published Diagnostic Manual V under the category Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders are as follows: Hoarding Disorder, Excoriation (Skin Picking) Disorder, Hair Pulling Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Substance/Medication-Induced Obsessive- Compulsive and Related Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition.

 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorders are the major mental illnesses, yet OCD is two to three times more common. It is truly America’s “hidden epidemic.”  Medication and therapy BRING  HOPE.

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Marion Bono, a member of NAMISWLA, facilitates a support group and teaches the Family-to-Family course, from which these articles are taken.
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