If you have a friend who is perennially obsessed with checking locked doors, then it is probably a joke in your friend circle that he/she suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. Obsessive thinking patterns are not laughing matter; it is a serious psychiatric anxiety disorder that can make the life of the person suffering from it extremely miserable.
Obsessive thinking patterns, also known as intrusive thoughts, are unpleasant and involuntary thoughts, that become a regular part of a person’s thought process, becoming obsessions that are difficult to control or manage. When coupled with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), these can become persistent, cause anxiety, and can be disabling.
Obsessive thinking disorder has featured in several movies, and a case study from one of these films is the best way to illustrate the extent to which it can affect a person’s life. In the 1997 film As Good As It Gets, Melvin Udall, the protagonist (brilliantly portrayed by Jack Nicholson), is diagnosed with OCD. Udall avoids walking on cracks on the sidewalk, hates touching people, wears gloves, eats at the same table, at the same restaurant, orders the same meal, and insists on being served by the same waitress. He has obsessive thoughts about being infected by germs and diseases, and therefore insists on bringing his own utensils when he goes out for meals, and also has a specific ritual for laying the table. These are just some ways in which he tries to reduce his anxiety. His life revolves around these compulsions, succumbing to the thinking patterns.
Obsessive Thinking Patterns
Simply put, obsessive thinking is a personality disorder, wherein people are stuck in a vicious cycle of repeating their behavior due to obsessive thoughts. If a person suffers from obsessive thinking disorder, then he/she would have stressful fears and compulsions. These compulsions are a means of making these obsessive thoughts go away and function as temporary relief. They can take up a lot of time, thus interfering with their normal routine.
Obsessive thinking and anxiety, according to several studies, are a result of a combination of factors, both biological and environmental. There have also been studies to suggest that the lack of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, maybe the cause of obsessive thinking disorder. Obsessive thinking in children and adults can also be a result of chronic usage of drugs or traumatic head injuries. Stress or the loss of a loved one can also cause this disorder. Obsessive thinking and relationships also have a strong connection, as emotional, physical, or sexual matters can cause an onset of this disorder.
In some people, obsessive thinking is a way of dealing with unpleasant situations and raising their emotional defense. People suffering from this also tend to worry about negative situations, and the future or the unknown. They tend to condemn themselves for the fear they feel. When patients suffer from intrusive thoughts coupled with OCD, they may have obsessions that may range from thoughts about violence, to sex, and even religion.
The thoughts may become obsessions which are paralyzing, severe, and constantly present, and can range from thoughts of violence and sex, to religious blasphemy. Patients may have obsessive aggressive thoughts about hurting themselves and others, like jumping from a bridge, stabbing a child, harming old people, or impulses to abuse and act violently. Obsessive thinking may also be sexually inappropriate in nature, ranging from having impulses to have sex with or rape strangers, to incestuous thoughts, to having doubts about one’s sexual identity. Another common intrusive thought in people with OCD is having evil thoughts about religion, especially during prayers. These thoughts may revolve around ideas like having sexual thoughts about God, fear of breaking a religious law, urges to commit profane acts during prayer meetings, etc. Obsessive thinking and depression are closely related, with patients suffering from the disorder often displaying symptoms of depression due to self-loathing.
While these may not be straightforward and evident symptoms, as they are thought patterns, there are certain compulsive behavior and signs of obsessive compulsive disorder displayed by patients, some of which are:
- Fear of germs and diseases
- Superstitious beliefs and religious rituals
- Constant recitation of the same words, phrases, or numbers
- Obsession with cleanliness
- Elaborate rituals during meals
- Repetition of tasks
- Collection of valueless items
- Constant checking of doors and windows
The treatment differs on a case-to-case basis, with cognitive behavioral therapy being used for milder cases, and exposure therapy and medication being used for cases that are more severe.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
There have been cases of reduction by using this form of psychotherapy. In the process of cognitive behavioral therapy, positive emotions are used to bring about the desired behavior.
- Exposure Therapy:
The basic foundation of this form of therapy, is that to reduce a fear, you need to face the fear. The aim of this therapy is that the patient exposes himself/herself to the fear, without either running away from it or indulging in compulsive behavior.
- Obsessive Thinking Medication:
Most patients who do not respond to behavioral therapies may be treated with a combination of therapy and medication. SSRI, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, drugs are commonly prescribed to patients of intrusive thoughts. Severe cases may have to be treated with antidepressants or antipsychotics. Neuroleptics (tranquilizers) are also used for patients with intense obsessive thoughts.
Obsessive thinking is a serious form of mental illness, and a person suffering from the disorder needs acceptance and a lot of care. Mental health is extremely important for a person to lead a productive life, and intrusive thoughts robs him/her of the ability to do so.