Tuesday, 20 November 2012

What's it like to have OCD?

Research with people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is often impersonal. Participants' thoughts, feelings and behaviours are reduced to ticked boxes on a questionnaire. There's a risk the real story of what it's like to have OCD doesn't get told. Helen Murphy and Ramesh Perera-Delcourt have taken a different approach. They interviewed 9 people (one woman) with OCD, face-to-face, for about an hour each, to hear how these people felt about their condition and about any treatment they'd received.

The researchers transcribed the interviews and highlighted key themes. Regarding the experience of OCD, the main themes were "wanting to be normal and fit in", "failing at life", and "loving and hating OCD."

Participants found comfort in meeting other OCD support-group members. They also spoke of caring too much about what other people are thinking of them. OCD can interfere with education, relationships and careers and frequently, participants compared their own stalled life trajectories against what they perceived as the societal norm. "I feel like I've got to make up for lost time in a way," one man said. There were in-depth descriptions of the painful situations created by OCD - one man who house-shared had to scrub the entire bathroom with powerful cleaning product for an hour every day before he could use it. But at the same time, there was a fear of losing the crutch that the condition provides. "I wish I could do that [stop checking], I wish I could stop," another man said, adding: "Well, not totally."

In relation to therapy, the main themes were "wanting therapy", "finding the roots", and "a better self". Participants spoke of the relief that came from having their problems recognised and listened to. The importance of rapport between participants and their therapists was mentioned repeatedly, consistent with what's known about the importance of the therapeutic relationship. Although aspects of CBT were found useful by many ("it helped me focus on what is important to me in life," said one), others commented on the lack of interest in the roots of the condition. "There's been a 'stuff the past' sort of thing but it's like cutting a plant above the soil - the roots are still there," said another participant. CBT helped participants with self-esteem issues. "... reanalysing things ... has made me realise that I wasn't to blame for all kinds of things," one person said.

Murphy and Perera-Delcourt concluded that examining people's narratives can help to "understand the lived experience and lessen public and self stigma". Given the way their participants emphasised the value of rapport in therapy, the researchers questioned claims that computerised CBT is a valid substitute. They also highlighted the apparent importance to people with OCD of understanding its origins. "Developmental issues in the maintenance of the disorder have been generally neglected and our findings suggest that understanding and talking through the origins of OCD may lessen treatment resistance," they said.

_________________________________ ResearchBlogging.org

Murphy, H. and Perera-Delcourt, R. (2012). ‘Learning to live with OCD is a little mantra I often repeat’: Understanding the lived experience of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in the contemporary therapeutic context. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice DOI: 10.1111/j.2044-8341.2012.02076.x

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.


Dr. Allison Holt said...

OCD is disabling and very tough to live with. Thanks for giving us an inside look at what it's like to be burdened with this disorder. I'll follow and subscribe. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

In A Life Lived Ridiculously (which is a great book about OCD) the frustration of trying to communicate OCD to another person was beautifully described as follows:

As I listened to the words pour from my mouth, I could have thumped myself in the face. Not because the words evoked emotions, rather I was disappointed by the extent to which the words trivialized the mental anguish associated with these decorating dilemmas. It was like suffering from a broken leg but only having the vocabulary to describe a scraped knee. Words just didn’t do justice to the pain. How do you tell a stranger that you don’t like the shape of your lampshade and at the same time expect them to understand that you are describing a pain that inhabits you fully, inserts itself between your cells like cement and wears your skin like a coat? I just sounded like I was whining.

Janet Singer (ocdtalk) said...

I found this article quite interesting as I've recently written a post (http://ocdtalk.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/talking-about-ocd-is-it-always-a-good-thing/) which discusses why talking about the origins of OCD is not helpful. I liken it to someone who has asthma being asked, "So why do you think your airways constrict?" OCD is a neurologically based anxiety disorder and that's why those with OCD suffer. What's of utmost importance, I believe, is receiving the proper treatment, ERP Therapy, for the disorder. Certainly addressing cognitive distortions, etc, might be helpful for those who are treatment resistant, but I am skeptical about the benefit of talking about the origins of OCD.

Soolet said...

I found this article useful, not many of us may understand what exactly is OCD. The article made me aware of OCD and it's complications. In life if a certain disable illness that doesn't affect one self, we seem to ignore the fact that, well since I don't have it does it matter? Infact educating oneself in learning about certain difficulties should make us appreciate life more as others seem to struggle along. I believe look at those beneath you than those above you. You never know when you will bump into a person with OCD, and we may even judge the person negatively.

Chellsie Jones said...

When a person suffers from OCD (obessive compulsive disorder) which as we know is a disorder in which a person's life is dominated by repetitive thoughta and behaviors. This type of disorder could take over ones's life and thoughts causing it to be difficult to function.In order to reduce the performance of reprtitve behavior there has to be a mental act involved to stop the act of wanting to check of whatever it migth be.

Anonymous said...

When a person sufferes from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorders) there are many factors that are involved. For example OCD has been linke with the disfunctin in a persons brain areas such as areas that involve in the flight or fight response, and the frontal lobes, which play a key role in a persons ability to think and plan ahead. There are also parts in the brain that control even the way our body moves and functions. There are many things that can contribute to ones specific type of OCD and there are many tests and ways to help them and teach them to be what we call "normal" in todays society. Many people out there in the world shun people who have certain mental illnesses. and i feel that it is not right. People have to realize that they are people and that with help they can return back to their normal schedules and live a happy and healthy life. And yes they can get help and become as happy as the next person and sometimes they become more happy in their life and will succeed in life!

Kristen Kelly said...

This was a very interesting and informative read! I have known people close to me also having to deal with this disorder but the more common obsessions like contamination. I recently learned that there are many different compulsions and obsessions within this disorder, the most common being: contamination, pathological doubt, violent or sexual thoughts, washing, checking, counting, and symmetry and precision. I didn't even know there was a difference between a compulsion and obsession within the disorder. A compulsion is a repetitive behavior a person feels they need to perform over and over, such as washing their hands again and again a certain amount of times. Obsessions are repeated, uncontrollable thoughts or mental images causing a person to have a great deal of anxiety or stress, such as having an irrational fear of germs. Thank you so much for giving me the insight of having OCD and explaining the life of someone having to deal with this disorder.

Anonymous said...

In today’s society OCD is considered a disorder for “crazy”, people but that is not the case at all. Those suffering from OCD have to suffer with extreme anxiety daily; these feelings dominate a person’s life by repetitive thoughts and behaviors. So when you see an OCD person switching the lights off and on; or a person excessively cleaning do not make fun of them. Because that is just their way of dealing with their anxiety, which is something that everyone experiences. The best thing you can do is support them and encourage that person to seek treatment, so that they can enjoy life.

Elena said...

I really enjoyed this article! It gives interesting insight into what it is like to live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It made me think of another article I just read on this topic called "Identifying & Treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" at www.psychalive.org/2012/12/identifying-and-treating-obsessive-compulsive-disorder/ that gives a great summary on how identifying the disorder and also valuable information on treatment.

Helen said...

It is tough to live with and that's what I heard in the accounts - that's why we wanted it published.

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