Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders - A Brief Survey of Abnormal Psychology - Definitions

Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World - Andrea Bonior 2016

Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
A Brief Survey of Abnormal Psychology


US prevalence 1.2 percent among adults


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is greatly misunderstood. Suffering from OCD does not mean being overly organized or anal. Rather, its sufferers are plagued by intrusive, disturbing thoughts (obsessions), and by compelling urges or repetitive rituals (compulsions), by which they try to reduce the distress that their disturbing thoughts bring on. Their compulsions don’t typically resolve their anxiety very well, and so a person with OCD is often trapped in a seemingly endless loop of bothersome obsessions that lead to compulsions that in turn take up a lot of time and energy. Common obsessions involve such areas as concerns over hygiene, fear of something bad happening, a need for symmetry, aggressive urges, or fear of losing control. Common compulsions often, but not always, correspond to particular obsessions—washing to relieve a hygiene obsession, checking locks and appliances to relieve fear of a burglary or a fire, ordering and arranging objects to satisfy a need for symmetry. Counting is another common compulsion, and physical tics can develop as well. The most fundamental part of OCD is thought-action fusion, or behavior reflecting the belief that thoughts are dangerous in their own right. The more a person with OCD tries to fight an obsessive thought, the more bothersome and persistent it becomes. People who suffer from OCD can be locked in constant battle with thoughts that people without OCD will often just experience and then let go.


US prevalence 4 percent among adults


Suffering from hoarding disorder—which is no longer categorized as a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder but is instead now seen as a disorder in its own right—means more than just being a packrat or having substantial collections of specific items. People with hoarding disorder find it very difficult or impossible to part with everyday objects, and they accumulate them to such an extent that they create living conditions hazardous to their own health and safety and to that of the people who live with them. Those with hoarding disorder sometimes have insight into the nature of their obsession with keeping items but are often resistant to seeing just how extreme their behavior has become. Their obsessional emotional attachment to items, and their high anxiety about what will happen if they get rid of them, typically causes major problems with emotional functioning and can destroy relationships.


US prevalence 2.4 percent among adults


Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder experience significant unrest over what they perceive to be flaws in their appearance, and they are preoccupied with one or many areas of their bodies that they see as abnormal or ugly. Their concerns are grossly exaggerated; any objective abnormality in their appearance, if indeed it exists, is typically not nearly as extreme as they believe it to be. The time and the mental energy they expend in worry about their alleged flaws can take over their lives, and people with this disorder often develop compulsive types of behavior as they try to relieve their distress (for example, they may repeatedly check mirrors, purchase various beauty projects, or seek out plastic surgery). Their insight into their distorted perceptions can vary. Some people recognize that their preoccupations are out of proportion to their actual appearance, and others border on delusional thinking, given how certain they are about the extreme negativity of their appearance.