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Difference between Obsession and Compulsion

Difference between Obsession and Compulsion



Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder wherein an individual experiences recurring and undesirable thoughts, sensations or ideas which is known as obsessions that compels them to carry out behaviour on repetition which is known as compulsions.

diffrence between obsession and compulsion

Let’s understand the difference between Obsession and Compulsion

 

Obsessions 

What are they?

They are thoughts, ideas, and impulses

What do they do?

They cause unwanted feelings, anxiety, and distress

Relation

They lead to compulsions. (Cause)

Disruption

They disrupt the mental wellbeing

Repetition

Repetition in thoughts, ideas, and impulses.

Themes

  • Contamination- Fear of contracting something, like dirt, germs, chemicals, etc.E.g. Shaking hands with others thinking, ‘Did I contract germs from them?’
  • Unintentional harm to self or others- Fear of harming themselves or others through negligence.E.g., ‘What if I didn’t lock the doors properly?
  • Symmetry- A need to have items or things in a specific order and symmetry.E.g. Aligning clothes in a certain way, for example in color, or facing a certain direction.

 

Compulsions

What are they?

They are actions

What do they do?

They are performed to cope with obsessions.

Relation

They result due to obsessions. (Effect)

Disruption

They disrupt the physical wellbeing

Repetition

Repetition in actions

Themes

  • Washing or cleaning- Because of the excessive fear they wash and clean themselves, excessively. And sometimes to the point being ritualistic in nature.
  • Checking- Because of the excessive fear of burglary they would check doors, locks, to make sure everything is fine.
  • Counting, tapping, and touching objects. Compulsions involved here would be counting, tapping, touching objects in a particular way, or particular times.

Because obsessions are repetitive ideas and thoughts that are unwanted in nature causing distress and anxiety, Compulsions are carried out to make individuals feel safer. These compulsions end up being ritualistic and repetitive to reduce the stress but if the ritual is disrupted they would harness an unrealistic fear (obsession) as they didn’t complete the ritual. Culminating to a vicious cycle,

Cycle image OCD

So suppose, an individual has an obsessional thought of dying due to the cooking stove being on (obsessional thought) hence causing him to stress, he would repeatedly check (compulsive behaviour) and this checking makes him ‘feel’ safe (short term relief) so he decides to check 5 times before leaving for work. Now if suppose one day he wasn’t able to check the stove ‘5times’ (compulsive behaviour) he begins then to develop irrational fear of dying (obsessional thought) due to the cooking stove being on causing him to stress and hence would go to great lengths to make sure he check ‘5 times’ daily to feel safe. Unfortunately these obsessions don’t “go away”, until the ritual is performed.

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