The Secret Struggle: How OCD Symptoms Affect Adult Lives


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that affects around 2.2 million adults in the United States alone. OCD causes individuals to have intrusive thoughts, images, or impulses (obsessions) that create distress and anxiety. These obsessions, in turn, lead to compulsive behaviors or actions to alleviate their anxiety. The compulsive behavior becomes a temporary relief, however, it only strengthens the OCD cycle, creating more anxiety in the long run.

OCD is often portrayed in the media as compulsive handwashing, arranging items perfectly or needing things a certain way. But the reality is OCD is a private struggle, often hidden and stigmatized. In fact, OCD has several forms that can go unnoticed.

The different types of OCD include:

– Contamination OCD – where the affected individual constantly fears contamination or getting sick from germs or dirt.

– Checking OCD – individuals with this type of OCD tend to double-check their work, locks or appliances.

– Pure-O – this is a form of OCD where individuals will experience intrusive, unwanted and often violent thoughts, which lead to mental compulsions of analyzing and avoiding triggers

– Hoarding OCD – the affected individual accumulates objects as they find it difficult to discard items, even if they’re useless or unimportant.

The presence of OCD symptoms can have profound effects on an individual’s life, especially in adulthood. It can impact their work, careers, relationships, and self-esteem. For starters, individuals with OCD tend to be less productive at work. They tend to spend more time on obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors, leaving less time for work-related tasks. Their focus becomes diverted, so they’re often fixated on one issue or problem, which makes it difficult for collaboration or team play. In some cases, an individual may not cope well in a work environment, leading to absenteeism or leaving a job altogether.

OCD symptoms can also affect relationships, especially when an individual is trying to hide their obsession or compulsions from their partner, friends or family members. It can lead to feelings of isolation, shame and guilt. Sometimes, individuals may isolate themselves from others, giving up hobbies or social groups, which can further erode self-esteem and confidence.

Unfortunately, some people’s obsessions and compulsions can go unrecognized, often, the individual themselves will be unaware, and instead, they may have developed a coping mechanism or avoid situations that trigger anxiety. This avoidance behavior can have the opposite effect, leading to avoidance being reinforced, making it harder for the individual to tackle the root cause of their anxiety.

When it comes to treating OCD symptoms, talk therapy, behavior therapy, or medication can help significantly. The goal is to break the OCD cycle by establishing new patterns of thought and behavior. With a skilled therapist, individuals can work on challenging irrational thoughts and developing new coping mechanisms. Additionally, medications can help reduce anxiety and obsessive thoughts.

Ultimately, it’s important to recognize the struggles of the 2.2 million adults in the United States who are affected by OCD. Rather than creating shame or stigma, it’s important to discuss OCD, understand it, and support individuals with OCD to access the help and resources they need. Over time, with correct treatment and support, individuals can regain control of their lives and manage their OCD symptoms effectively.