Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a cyclical mental health condition which involves unending obsessions paired with unsatisfying compulsions performed to attempt to alleviate the emotional and physical suffering generated by the obsessions. There are approximately five main clusters of OCD; checkers, doubters and sinners, counters and arrangers, hoarders, and washers and cleaners. Accounting for about one quarter of OCD sufferers, the most abundant category is washers and cleaners and serves as the focus of this paper. OCD’s severity ranges from minor effects on a person’s life to completely debilitating. If your case is severe enough, it will affect your job, personal relationship, friendships, and normal functioning in a profoundly negative manner. However, with support from medication, therapy, and family, a person can cope with the urges and win the battle against his or her own mind.
OCD causes anxiety and distress based on uncontrollable thoughts and images that feel both intrusive and unpleasant to the sufferer. The ideas are often unrealistic, but are fantastically persistent and extremely disturbing. (Robinson) These thoughts and images compel the person to perform ritualized activities in an attempt to relieve the obsessive notions that will not stop playing in their mind. Like a jackhammer on concrete, the thoughts progressively get louder and louder and are impossible to ignore. The obsessive rituals are developed to decrease the amount of anxiety experienced by the OCD sufferer, but fail to reduce the distress to any significant degree. (Robinson)
Washers and cleaners, the largest cluster type of OCD affected people, have “a constant fear of contamination and being infected with a disease and infecting others” complimented by avoiding or “removing all possible sources of germs and dirt. Washers may repeatedly wash their hands or take showers, while cleaners may clean their house many times a day as well as clean objects, clothes or surfaces repeatedly”. (5 Common Types of OCD) There can be a combination of the washing and cleaning behaviours or a slant more toward one than another. The experience of a person struck with an obsessive compulsive cycle is comparable to a non-sufferers inclination to breathe, or the need to have their heart beat - the thoughts and actions produced by OCD appear beyond regulation and feel automatic and mandatory for the sufferer. (Dunn) The contamination thoughts tend to strike panic and fear in the afflicted mind and body, causing uncontrollable anxiety, shaking, crying, stress and depression. The person will then (if, in their mind they can safely do so) try to disinfect the polluted area or object to stop the fear and make the obsessive thoughts go away. This comprises the ritual portion for washers and cleaners. In reality, many times the ritual does not serve an actual purpose because the area or object is not actually contaminated - the person’s brain just will not let the perception of contamination go. (Robinson)
Washers and cleaners will avoid touching perceived contaminated areas at all costs. Gloves, tissues, sleeves, even shoes are just a few of the items that can be used to avoid touching areas of possible contamination with bare skin. When taking shoes off, one shoe may be used to apply pressure to the heel of the opposite foot to avoid touching them with hands. When in public, disposable gloves will be worn to open door knobs or touch pay parking meters, or if no gloves are available, tissues, paper towels or, as a last ditch effort, a sleeve may be used. However, the shirt or jacket whose sleeve has been used is now considered contaminated and must be promptly removed and washed. Generally, a bathing ritual will follow immediately. (Dunn) OCD will cause the person to repeat this same series of behaviours over and over again. Even if they have managed to spend the last twenty-four waking hours disinfecting and decontaminating their entire living...
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