Sufferers of OCD live in a constant state of fight or flight.
The amygdala is constantly sending us false singals that we are in danger.
Here’s the thing. Our imaginations know no boundaries. Nearly everyone experiences intrusive thoughts about violence, sex, blasphemy, suicide and beyond. For most people, these thoughts come and go. But for sufferers of OCD, they can trigger debilitating anxiety.
Getting rid of these thoughts is not easy. OCD sufferers compulsively try to neutralize or disprove them. But the more they obsess about doing so, the stronger the thoughts become. They appear faster and more intense. They increasingly play into a sufferer’s biggest fears. This leaves people questioning their character and constantly seeking reassurance that they’re not capable of acting on the awful things in their head.
And so begins the never-ending cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are the unwanted thoughts and images in your head. Compulsions are the rituals a person engages in to try and lessen them. Contrary to popular depictions of OCD, compulsions can be visible and invisible in nature. What does this mean? Some sufferers will perform noticeable rituals, like hand washing, to fight their intrusive thoughts. Other sufferers, will get stuck in their minds performing non-observable rituals over and over again. The problem is, since people can’t see them doing so, their OCD often goes undiagnosed. Even worse, if they do meet with a professional, ill-informed therapists might misdiagnose them or make their thoughts worse by assigning meaning to them.
The truth is, intrusive thoughts are completely meaningless. The brain is experiencing a misfire between areas of communication. It is an error, not a reflection of someone’s character. And the good news, is that OCD can be a totally manageable condition. With proper therapy, people with OCD can live normal, happy lives.