Photo Illustration by Emily Crooks
Photo illustration by Emily Crooks

“I better check the light switch again, just in case.” This can be one of the thoughts raging through the minds of people who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

OCD causes people to have obsessive thought patterns and repetitive actions, and it is one of many anxiety disorders.

“Usually there is a difference between an obsession and a compulsion,” said Karen Burton, former assistant nursing professor at Weber State University. “Usually there’s (an) underlying obsession, something you are really worried about.”

In response to these obsessions, a person will respond with compulsive actions, Burton said.

An example of this would be if a person was obsessing over being behind in work. That person may then respond with a compulsion to focus on one item of work and only that one item.

The four main categories of OCD compulsions are checking on things repetitively, looking for contamination, hoarding and having intrusive thoughts.

According to ocduk.org, OCD affects every 12 in 1,000 people. The most common age of onset is 19 years old.

Generally anxiety and depression are in the same group of disorders.

Burton said the cause of OCD and depression is a shortage of serotonin in the brain, or the serotonin doesn’t stay in the person’s system long enough.

Ocduk.org says most people, at some point in their lives, will experience OCD-like symptoms.

This often happens during a time frame in which someone is feeling overwhelmed with stress. What is the difference between actions related to high stress and actions that pertain to OCD, and at what point is it time to seek help?

When the compulsive action takes a copious amount of time and keeps a person from living his or her life, it is probably time to seek professional help. If the obsessive thoughts are beginning to cause excessive distress and anguish, this is another sign that help should be sought out.

People with OCD can recognize that their actions are irrational and compulsive. Most people with OCD will know not to act on their intrusive and disturbing thoughts in order to protect themselves or loved ones.

OCD is a chronic disease and can be treated with medication. Another remedy for OCD is exercising and eating healthily. Increasing both those habits in a person with OCD may help them dramatically.

Somebody with OCD can learn to no longer act on their compulsive behavior through cognitive behavioral therapy.

“People with OCD generally don’t seek treatment,” said Jonathan Selden, psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner at Weber State.

In most cases of OCD, cognitive behavioral therapy will be effective, but if not, both medication and the therapy often help keep the OCD in check.

“It is important to know that OCD is a debilitating condition that can manifest in a variety of ways and does not just mean someone who likes things organized or clean,” said Caitlin Benko, a nursing major. “Stereotypes like that can really hurt those who suffer from the disorder.”