When I used to work with mothers suffering with post-natal depression, one of the common features of my clients was an overwhelming drive to be perfect – perfect mother, perfect home maker, perfect wife etc. Such client would be unable to stop and sit down until the house was absolutely tidy, which, considering small children, almost never happened. There was always more ironing to do, more bathrooms to clean, more toys to tidy. One client ended up ironing until 3 o’clock at night when she realized that something is not right and decided to seek help. Compulsive neatness, desire to control everything and to be perfect are common feature of the Obsessive-Compulsive Personality disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder. The ‘Obsessive’ part of OCD is characterized by persistent thoughts that cause the sufferer distress and from which there is little relief. There is usually a feeling that if compulsive behavior (for example tidying) will stop, something really dreadful is going to happen.
These thoughts and feelings then lead to compulsive actions, which have to be performed again and again. These actions or rituals can involve checking, washing, cleaning, (there can be an overwhelming fear of germs and contamination) touching objects a number of times, counting “magic” numbers or performing certain rituals. Even getting out of the house becomes a lengthy ritual, as all the lights have to be checked, things tidied up, shoes lined up together etc etc.
OCD sufferer has an overwhelming desire to control everything around him or her, so endless checks are performed to make sure things are under control.
Someone with OCD often has a compulsive desire to be perfect in everything. I have seen many mums whose children were always perfectly dressed, who baked the best muffins and whose houses were impeccable. Yet they were often too exhausted to play with their children or do something fun together. People in this situation put enormous pressure on their children and their families, but most of all on themselves. The result is usually exhaustion and often depression, when a person can’t be perfect anymore and just gives up.
So what can you do if you find yourself engaging in some OCD behavior? I will talk about it in my next post.