Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: understand when mania crosses limits

We all have methods and standards for doing our routine tasks.

This not only serves to optimize everyday life, but also for safety: how to wash your hands before handling food and check if the door is locked, for example.

The problem arises when you wash your hands to the point of bleeding, or you can’t even work in peace if you don’t check five times in a row if the door has been closed.

These are signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

But Obsessive Compulsive Disorder doesn’t just manifest itself that way. There are different types of problems in this spectrum – some are only obsessive, others are compulsive. There are manifestations only in the mind, others in everyday life, such as those in the examples above.

In this post, we will understand:

  • What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder;
  • What is the difference between obsession and compulsion?
  • How OCD manifests itself;
  • How to treat it correctly.

Let’s talk?

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

The Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a psychiatric disorder anxiety spectrum. It is described in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual for Mental Disorders – DSM V, of the American Psychiatric Association. It is characterized by continuous crises of obsessions and compulsions.

First of all, these repetitive and insistent manias, which are the result of ideas that remain in the mind repetitively, can start in childhood, from 3 years of age.

According to studies , 80% of OCD cases diagnosed in adults were manifested before the age of 18, and 50% before the age of 15.

However, children are often repetitive. Notice how they like to repeat the same joke over and over or want you to make a specific face so they can keep laughing.

So pay attention!

See the intensity and frequency of these episodes and, mainly, what makes them repeat a certain task so much.

That way, if you have children and realize that these fads are getting worrying, don’t motivate or encourage these rituals. On the contrary: help the child cope with obsessive thoughts and deal with compulsion. A child psychologist can be the key to a happy childhood.

What is the difference between obsession and compulsion?

Obsession is understood as a series of thoughts, images and ideas that take over the individual’s mind without his / her desire.

Make no mistake: having a negative thought, for example, is normal. An individual can look at a car and imagine an accident, or even mentally buy a fight with a stranger, who just passed him on the street.

The problem is when the thought becomes repetitive, like a broken record.

In fact, the broken record is what turns an idea into an obsession. It repeats itself tirelessly in the individual’s head, without rest, to the point of disturbing him in social relationships and in his routine.

Intrusive thinking, that catastrophic scene that pops into your mind without your wanting it, is one of the characteristics of obsession.

Compulsions are behavioral manifestations of obsessions. They are like “solutions” for the broken record to stop repeating itself, even if only for a moment.

For example, it is washing your hands when you feel you are still contaminated; is to turn the key five times for fear that someone will break into your home; it is just walking on the black squares of a sidewalk, because otherwise something bad can happen to the world.

The problem is that, as the person performs the rituals, the obsessive thoughts get worse and become more and more common.

With that, they saw an obstacle not only for the individual’s routine, but also for the whole family.

Superstitions are part of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

No. Superstitions, incidentally, are greatly reinforced by our culture.

It is quite common to hear, especially from older people, that one should not pass under the stairs or that crossing a black cat is unlucky.

There are also those who prefer positive reinforcement rituals, such as the three hop to São Longuinho when they find a lost object.

However, as you may have noticed, none of these behaviors paralyzes the person to the point that they cannot live their routine without completing them. In short, superstitions are much more linked to faith than fear.

How does Obsessive Compulsive Disorder manifest itself?

Find out how these distinct phases of the same disorder tend to appear:

Types of obsessions

Obsessions tend to manifest themselves in different but very characteristic ways.

They usually cause discomfort, guilt and anxiety in the patient. In the book “Mentes e Manias”, the psychiatrist Ana Beatriz Barbosa Silva classifies the different types of obsession. Watch:

  • Aggression: fear of insulting, assaulting, hurting or hurting others (mainly family members or close ones) and yourself;
  • Contamination: fear of being contaminated by dirt, germs, viruses, bacteria and microbes. The individual avoids shaking hands and any kind of physical contact, is terrified of animals (for example, does not touch dogs because he is afraid he has attacked another infected animal), washes his hands tirelessly and fears until he leaves the house;
  • Sexual content: intrusive thoughts (without the individual’s will) in which he is having sex with inappropriate people or seeing other people having sex, in addition to obscene, pornographic and even incestuous situations;
  • Storage and savings: the individual is obsessed with collecting and storing any type of objects. And no, I’m not talking about your perfume collection, for example, but about a difficulty getting rid of any kind of junk for fear that it will be missed in the future;

And more:

  • Religious in character: the individual has intrusive thoughts that he is committing blasphemy, heresy and even speaking or making obscenities within a church. There is also the urge to ask for forgiveness several times, because a low number of “Our Father”, for example, would not do;
  • Symmetry: the individual is uncomfortable with items out of order. Therefore, he needs to put into practice the compulsion to align objects, clothes, pictures on the wall and decoration in general;
  • Somatics: excessive fear of becoming ill. Do you know when a person has a twinge in their head and already thinks they are suffering from something very serious? In this case, the individual has this type of thinking for any pain, in any situation;
  • Linked to doubts: the person does not trust himself and thinks he did not close the window, did not lock the door, did not turn off the gas cylinder.

If you notice, the word that guides the onset of any Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is fear . That is why, from a simple daily activity, he sees numerous catastrophic situations.

Types of compulsions

Compulsions, as we have seen, are the ritualistic behaviors that accompany obsessions.

Theoretically, in order to ward off intrusive ideas, they end up feeding the “monster” of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

They can be either manifest (washing hands, checking locks, checking the passage – the so-called “manias”) or covered up as mental acts (prayers, “mantras” repeatedly tirelessly to neutralize bad thoughts).

In the same book, Ana Beatriz classifies the different types of compulsion:

  • For cleaning and disinfection: wash your hands to the point of injury, take endless baths (for hours), use lots of cleaning products. All of these rituals have a sequence of movements, products and washed places that, for the individual, follow a logic;
  • By ordering and symmetry: organizing crooked objects, always keeping items in the same way, position and obeying the symmetry of other objects. In this case, I am not talking about optimizing storage, but about those who spend a lot of time just fixing a drawer. In the case of symmetry, there is also the question of touch: if the individual touched the right arm to the cupboard, he must touch the left too;
  • By checking and checking: checking windows, doors, gas canisters, tickets, money, if the child has arrived from school, if the husband is at home;
  • By count: the individual counts up to a certain number, in ascending and descending order, so that the bad thought comes out;

And more:

  • By collecting: the individual collects all kinds of junk inside the house. When a person reaches a severe stage, he becomes an accumulator – a disorder different from
    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder;
  • By repetition: enter and exit through the same door, turn the switch on and off, write, erase and and rewrite the same phrase several times;
  • Mental: they are more difficult to identify, as they are “hidden”. The individual mentally repeats phrases and prayers to neutralize his thoughts;
  • Various ways: only wear clothes of a certain color (or not use black), wear white on holy days, wear the same clothes on the eve of tests, wear the same shirt at the end of a championship, buy a certain item in the same color. Even simple crazes are considered compulsive rituals.

Another type of compulsive manifestation is  aritmomania , in which the individual needs to count all the objects and actions around him.

For example, climbing a ladder counting the steps. Have you seen the character Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory? He is an example of someone who suffers from the problem.

What is the line between mania and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

The line of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is tenuous, as it is very difficult to define when mania can become OCD. As you saw up there, it is still a compulsive ritual.

The main factor is whether the mania is caused by an intrusive thought and begins to disrupt the person’s routine.

Ask yourself: can I live peacefully without doing this ritual? Do I need to do it more than once? Why do I do this?

If you check that your ticket is correct even after you just put it in your pocket, it may just be a craze.

But if you do this several times because your mind keeps on disturbing, it can be Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is crazy?

No. First of all, if we are going to analyze a psychiatry manual, everyone has some mental disorder. So you can rest easy. “Madness”, by the way, is an outdated term because it has an offensive connotation.

However, when it comes to madness, we are often referring to a pathology in which the individual is unaware that what is happening is just a product of the mind, such as psychosis and schizophrenia.

Most people who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are fully aware that it is the product of their head, but perform the rituals because of anxiety.

Is it possible to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has no cure, but don’t worry: it’s possible to have a full and happy life !

First, recognize the problem. There is no need to be ashamed, as we all have adversities. If you try to resolve them, you will be proud of your courage. This step, in fact, can motivate others close to you to seek psychological help.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be treated with or without medication.

In short, you can see a psychologist or a psychiatrist to treat you. The treatment, in fact, can be with both specialties.

Speaking of drug-free treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy has proven effective against Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is an approach to psychotherapy in which the therapist exposes the patient to the situation that generates anxiety .

Even so, don’t worry: it starts in a mild way and, with the advancement of treatment, it goes to more triggering situations of the disorder.

In medication therapy, the patient uses antidepressants that inhibit the reuptake of serotonin, the only ones that have an effect in combating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.


Be surrounded by professionals who can explain to you and your family the characteristics of the pathology.

The more aware you are of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder problem, the easier it will be to deal with. And again, I repeat: don’t be ashamed. Be happy! You are much more than someone who suffers from OCD!

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