Compulsive Disorders

Intrusive thoughts, images or impulses

Do you avoid rocking your sick child to sleep because you are worried about catching their cold? Or, do you walk the nine flights of stairs to reach your office because you are terrified of touching the buttons in the elevator?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Those are just a few tasks that more than three hundred thousand Canadians struggle with everyday. According to Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD as it’s commonly referred to, affects one to two per cent of the Canadian population at some point in their life. Like Matthew of Hammonds Plains, thousands of Nova Scotians are living with the disorder.

According to Nova Scotia Health Authority’s (NSHA) mental health program, Our Healthy Minds, obsessive-compulsive disorder is categorized as a condition in which a person experiences intrusive thoughts, images or impulses. These are often disturbing and may make the person feel anxious (obsessions). In turn, the person may perform certain acts or rituals in order to feel better or less anxious (compulsions).

OCD can begin at any age. Because symptoms are often mild in the beginning, it often goes unnoticed until the individual is older. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, most cases of OCD are diagnosed in early adulthood, around the age of 19. One in three adults who have been diagnosed in adulthood believe that their OCD began in childhood or adolescence. OCD can lead to other symptoms like the inability to pay attention. This occurs when the individual’s attention is focused on their obsession and or compulsion.

Common obsessions

Most often, obsessions include fears of cleanliness and contamination, doubting and checking (such as worrying that the stove has not been turned off), thoughts of harming others or the need to count numbers. Obsessions can also include the need for perfection, symmetry and order.

Are you living with an individual who is experiencing OCD? Obsessive-compulsive disorder affects every part of the lives of every member of your household. It’s important to know how to effectively cope. Please visit the More than Medication website for a list of coping strategies.