24 May 2019
Anyone can become a victim of obsessive compulsive disorder, even a woman who struggles to decide what shoes to wear. Photo: Internet
Anyone can become a victim of obsessive compulsive disorder, even a woman who struggles to decide what shoes to wear. Photo: Internet

A brief introduction to obsessive compulsive disorder

If you have a friend who keeps fidgeting and asking rhetorical questions in a nervous fashion, you might consider it funny, thinking that the person is suffering a temporary anxiety attack.

That may well be so, but what if the friend is behaving in that manner once too often?

Well, it could be because the person is indeed afflicted with some abnormalities.

There are two possibilities that could account for the problem: the person might be suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or low self-esteem.

OCD is a common mental health condition affecting five in every 1,000 people statistically. Young children and adults could all be victims of it.

Patients would be deeply troubled by obsessive thoughts that give rise to extreme discomfort and anxiety, which could only be relieved by carrying out some compulsive repetitive behavior.

OCD victims have obsessive fear of making mistakes. For instance, they need to check the stove and water tap several times before they leave home as they fear they might have left the devices on.

People may also have extreme fear of infection, which will prompt them to wash their hands excessively with soap.

They would follow some strict protocols which are meaningless or clueless to others, such as arranging things in a certain order or else they would be upset.

The above-mentioned behavior often adversely affects the everyday life of the individuals, as they are so preoccupied with trivial matters that eat up much of their time, lower their work efficiency and cause allergies or damage to the skin. People of all ages could develop OCD.

Meanwhile, low self-esteem is also a problem that should not be overlooked, a phenomenon that mainly affects the adolescents.

Individuals of low self-confidence would feel incompetent, and they keep checking from time to time to minimize or correct any perceived mistakes they have made.

Individuals who have strict parents or have undergone a major or life-changing event might see their self-esteem taking a knock.

Since, unlike OCD, it would not affect everyday life and others as much, it is not considered as an illness. In addition, the situation would improve as time passes by.

Appropriate treatments would be assigned by doctors and professionals by taking into consideration various factors, and they would identify all possible causes attributed to the illness.

Behavioral treatment like flooding therapy or encouraging OCD suffers to be patient and try their best to resist when they feel the urge to repeat comforting rituals are among the options.

In terms of medicines, serotonin, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) would be prescribed to regulate the level of serotonin in the patient’s brain.

Patients need help and understanding, not scolding or sarcastic comments, which could only make the problem worse.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 14.

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Consult a professional if you always feel anxious about trivial things like whether you have turned off lights before leaving home or feel the urge to constantly wash your hands. Photos: Internet

FHKAM (Paediatrics)

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