Friday 22 November 2019

OCD: Offending choking and draining

Morag Maxwell

WE are all prone to getting stuck on a thought. How many times have you back-tracked to double check if you locked the door? You knew in the back of your own mind that, yes, you had in fact secured the premises, but your brain insisted you return and investigate, just to be sure.

Have you ever knowingly set your alarm clock and then reset it again and again?

Doubts and worries are all part of everyday life. However, excessive thoughts and behaviours such as persistent hand washing and house cleaning, obsessive tidying and manically re-organising your surroundings may indicate a condition called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

According to the support group OCD Ireland, people describe the symptoms of this condition as similar to mental hiccups that simply won’t go away. It’s a brain disorder that causes problems in the area of information processing.

Be not afraid as there are many treatments available and you are most definitely not alone. Approximately 1 in 50 people suffer from OCD and indeed twice that amount at some point in their lives. Many OCD sufferers claim to have experienced the condition since childhood. It usually manifests itself before 40 years of age and shows no gender or cultural preferences.

So, when does a fondness for hoovering and tidying up become an issue? The World Health Organisation attributes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to being one of the ten main causes of disability internationally due to OCD’s hidden and stigmatised nature. OCD Ireland states that there are two main features to the condition – obsessions and compulsions.


These are involuntary thoughts, impulses or images. Fear about dirt, contamination and germs are common.

Sufferers are afraid of acting out aggressive or indeed violent thoughts and impulses towards their loved ones. A person with OCD may obsess over household appliances they deem to be unsafe.

The reality is that these symptoms are frequent and highly distressing and difficult to combat.


It is common for people with this condition to carry out a compulsion to reduce the anxiety caused by an obsession. This can result in excessive washing and cleaning, checking, or repetitive processes such as arranging ordering touching or counting. The person feels forced to perform these actions and because the compulsion reduces anxiety, the urge to be perform the compulsive actions becomes stronger each time.

The root problem may indeed be biological and run in families. It can occur where depression and anxiety are present. It can also be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Psychological factors such as a traumatic life experience or stress are also contributing factors. Meaningful and long-term relief is possible in most individuals.

Good reads:

‘Talking Back to OCD: The Program That Helps Kids and Teens Say No Way - and Parents Say Way to Go’, is an excellent book by John S. March.

This self-help workbook has two sections, one for parents to help their children/teenagers and a section for children and adolescents on how to help themselves. Another good self-help book is; ‘When once is not enough’ by Gail Steketee. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: CBT is a talking therapy which aims to change the way we think. It helps us to expose and confront our fears. You will be taught to manage and tolerate the discomfort that occurs from your obsessions and compulsions. Visit psychotherapy- ireland. com to locate a therapist near you.


This is a relaxation technique derived from a meditation practice. It teaches you how to observe the workings of your mind without letting your thought processes take over daily life.

A good book to read on this topic is Jon Kabat Zinn’s ‘Full Catastrophe Living’.

OCD Ireland:

This wonderful support group run regular support meetings and can be contacted at

Practical tips:

Lifestyle changes may be necessary perhaps with a view to reducing your stress levels.

Taking good care of your body is a must as feeling relaxed and healthy will make for a stronger mental well-being. Yoga and Tai Chi will both assist to rebalance the body’s energy levels and a nutritious diet plus a regular exercise regime will help too. Certain herbal remedies may assist to reduce anxiety associated with OCD. These include Kava Kava, Valerian Root, St. John’s Wort and Ginkgo Biloba. Remember to consult your GP before taking any herbal medicine as they may interfere with current medications.

Preventing those mental hiccups will lead to a more relaxed and balanced you.


MANY celebs have openly spoken about their obsessive and compulsive rituals. High achievers they may be and perfectionism has its ups but needless obsessive and compulsive behaviours can interfere with your personal, working and social life. SWM takes a look at some of the most bizarre OCD celebrity tendencies.


Cameron uses her elbows to open what she believes are germ-infested doorknobs. She admits to washing her hands ‘numerous times a day’ and to obsessively ‘scrubbing’ her Hollywood abode.


This stunning actress has openly admitted that she cannot go to sleep if there is any closet or cupboard doors open in her house. She agrees it’s all a bit wacky but says she really can’t help herself.


Posh admitted that her hubby is obsessed with symmetry in their home. “Everything has to match,” she said. “If you open our fridge, it’s all coordinated down either side.We’ve got three fridges - food in one, salad in another and drinks in the third. In the drinks one, everything is symmetrical. If there’s three cans of Diet Coke, he’d throw one away rather than having three – because it has to be an even number.”


The Inception star forces himself not to step on chewing gum stains on pavements and has also said that he tries to prevent his urge to step through doorways several times.


The veteran actor has admitted to having a cleaning fixation. “I’m very OCD,” he says. “I’m like ‘Did somebody move that book?’ I notice everything and love to clean and rinse out glasses.”

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