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What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is often joked about in society.  Someone who like to have their hands meticulously clean, or someone who likes their spices alphabetized int eh pantry may be accused lightly of having OCD.  In fact, OCD is a mental anxiety disorder where a person has intrusive, distressing and often irrational thoughts or engages in repetitive, compulsive behaviors that literally consume their lives.

Considered by many experts to be a life long mental disorder, OCD is split into two categories: obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions

Obsessions can be defined as uncontrollable, involuntary, and often disturbing or alarming thoughts, images or impulses that flood an individual’s mind. For instance, someone with OCD may not be able to shake the thought of a loved one dying in a plane crash or of their child getting lost at Disneyland. Their worst fears are played out for hours in their mind, sometimes constantly—all day.

Compulsions

Compulsions are more ritualistic— meaning *****, and individuals with OCD conduct these actions over and over—repeatedly. Individuals suffering from OCD might check to see make sure the front door is locked or that their curling iron is unplugged over and over again in a short period of time or all throughout the day.  They may scrub their hands until they are raw over and over—never feeling completely germ free. These individuals often feel forced to continually perform tasks over and over, with incredible attention to small details.  Often, they are unable to break free from these actions or thoughts.

Sadly, to cope with the stress of OCD, many individuals turn to drugs or alcohol.  Studies dhow that nearly 25 % of people seeking treatment for OCD also are struggling with a substance abuse disorder.

source: drugrehab.com

Anxiety

The high stressed, overworked, perfectionistic lifestyle many of us are attempting to live is causing our US society a lot of anxiety.  There are many anxiety symptoms but despite their different forms, all anxiety disorders share one major symptom: persistent or severe fear or worry in situations where most people wouldn’t feel threatened.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America give the following statistics about anxiety disorders in the US on their website:

  • “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
  • Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
  • People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.”

Another interesting point about anxiety is the role it plays in conjunction with depression.  Many people with anxiety disorders also suffer from depression at some point. Anxiety and depression are believed to stem from the same biological vulnerability, which may explain why they so often go hand-in-hand. Since depression often creates anxiety symptoms (and vice versa), it’s important to seek treatment for both conditions. In fact, nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Seeking help, treatment, and support can lessen anxiety along with finding techniques to avoid or prevent anxiety before it becomes problematic in one’s life.

Is someone you are close with developing behaviors that seem different or worrisome to you? Are they between 18-24 years old (the age at which most mental illnesses manifest)?

Recently, the APA (American Psychiatric Association) developed a check list that concerned individuals can refer to when they see unusual behaviors in their lives or the lives of their loved ones and they are concerned about mental illness. The following list is copied directly from the website: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/warning-signs-of-mental-illness

◦       Withdrawal — Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in others

◦       Drop in functioning — An unusual drop in functioning, at school, work or social activities, such as quitting sports, failing in school or difficulty performing familiar tasks

◦       Problems thinking — Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain

◦       Increased sensitivity — Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations

◦       Apathy — Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity

◦       Feeling disconnected — A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality

◦       Illogical thinking — Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult

◦       Nervousness — Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling

◦       Unusual behavior – Odd, uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior

◦       Sleep or appetite changes — Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or decline in personal care

◦       Mood changes — Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings

If you or your loved one is experiencing a lot of these symptoms related to mental illness, or is experiencing any of these symptoms to a great degree, meeting with a healthcare professional is a good resource to turn to.

whitismentalhealthWhat is mental health?

Recently, many have recognized that mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. Most people don’t suffer from mental illness; however, it is apparent that some individuals are mentally healthier than others. Defining mental health seems a little more difficult than defining mental illness because there is no manual or association assigned to define it. A few characteristics that do typify mental health however include: the ability to enjoy life (positive attitude), resilience (coping well with stress), living a balanced life, flexibility (in opinions & emotions), and self-actualization (reaching one’s potential).

The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Promoting Mental health: Concepts, Emerging evidence, Practice: A report of the World Health Organization, Department of Mental health and Substance Abuse in collaboration with the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation and the University of Melbourne. World Health Organization. Geneva.)

One’s mental health is very important. Good mental health helps individuals enjoy life and cope with problems. It offers a feeling of well being and inner strength. Just as individuals take care of their bodies by eating right and exercising, they can do things to protect their mental health. In fact, eating right and exercising can help maintain good mental health. People don’t automatically achieve good mental health just because they don’t have mental health illness. They have to work to keep their minds healthy. Healthy nutrition, exercise, good stress management, as well as getting adequate sleep help maintain good mental health.

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