OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a disorder characterized by compulsive thoughts and behaviors.
Compulsive thoughts are thoughts a person keeps having without wanting to, and the compulsive behavior refers to behaviors which are repeated by the person even though he/she doesn’t want to behave in such a way. Some people repeat the compulsive thoughts because of obsessive fear that he/she might do something terrible. Compulsive behavior is repeated because the person realizes that if he/she doesn’t do so, after a while the compulsion will feel unbearable and the person will revert to compulsive behavior either way.
What’s behind these compulsive thoughts is a basic feeling that the person is bad or evil, therefore, “naturally”, he/she might do something horrible.
The role compulsive thoughts play is to break the gestalt of self-hate and self-contempt. By ritually repeating certain thoughts or behaviors, they then become a sort of separate entity, independent from the emotions which cause them. So, the person is aware of a certain thought or behavior, but is unaware of the reasons for such thoughts or behaviors. The person is not aware of the feelings of self-contempt or self-hatred which are the cause of these compulsive thoughts and behaviors.
The person is not aware of the whole. When he/she would become aware of the emotional whole, he/she would realize that he/she actually hates or despises himself/herself. However, the obsessive personality doesn’t have to be aware of this if he/she satisfies certain strict moral criteria. Still, due to the fact that no one can live this way all the time, the obsessive individual steps away from these standards and in these situations, one of the ways in which this individual can cut himself/herself off from this awareness is by repeating compulsive thoughts or behaviors.
The goal of therapy is to examine and diminish the impact of the beliefs the obsessive individual holds regarding what he/she must do in life. Parts of the personality which set strict moral criteria are weakened in a way. The person slowly comes to understand that things once thought of as immoral, aren’t immoral at all. What the person once believed were serious moral offenses now become things that weren’t that bad. The obsessed person learns to distinguish a mistake from a moral offense. And most importantly, realizes that even when he/she does something that is immoral and wrong, he/she as a person is not bad and wrong.
It’s not about understanding this on an intellectual level, but letting oneself feel the uncomfortable feelings of self-hate and self-contempt, therefore creating a whole. Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are no longer isolated phenomena, they are now parts of a whole, encompassing the unpleasant feelings which caused them. Only when we become aware of this whole can we “transform” it to self-love and self-respect.

Danijela Stojanović, clinical psychologist and therapist