OCD and Anxiety are some of the most commonly acknowledged mental health disorders but at times this awareness actually gives sufferers less visibility and recognition. This is because the terms have become so normalised amongst our everyday language that many of us fail to recognise when it’s an actual mental health condition.
How many of you are guilty of sentences like “that’s just my OCD playing up” when referring to something that displeases us like a crooked picture? Or treating regular nerves as something more serious. This actually diminishes from the recognition of people who are struggling with mental health conditions and the normalisation is undermining the reason for building awareness in the first place. So what is the difference?
Anxiety, all of us suffer from some degree and nerves and anxiety in everyday life. It’s our bodies warning system and a completely normal reaction to stress or danger. An anxiety disorder, however, is a medical condition and is characterised by a constant and excessive state of worry, whether there is a stressor or danger present or not.
Anxiety is also a very common symptom of those that suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and OCD.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
It is generally classified into the following types:
- General Anxiety Disorder – persistent, excessive or unrealistic worries
- Social Anxiety – an intense fear of being criticised, embarrassed or humiliated, even in everyday situations, such as speaking publicly, eating in public, being assertive at work or making small talk.
- Phobia – being very fearful about a particular object or situation and may go to great lengths to avoid it, for example, having an injection or travelling on a plane.
- Panic Disorder – Someone having a panic attack may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and excessive perspiration. Sometimes, people experiencing a panic attack think they are having a heart attack or are about to die. While many people will suffer a panic attack at one point in their life when one suffers from consistent attacks they are classified as having a panic disorder.
- Obsessive Compulsory Disorder – when one has ongoing unwanted/intrusive thoughts and fears that cause anxiety. Although the person may acknowledge these thoughts as silly, they often try to relieve their anxiety by carrying out certain behaviours or rituals.
Obsessive Compulsory Disorder (OCD)
OCD is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviours an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.
However, if that thought becomes obsessive (recurring), it can influence unhealthy patterns of behaviour that can cause difficulties in daily functioning. Obsessively thinking ‘I’ve left the oven on’ can lead to repeated checking.
For example, a fear of germs and contamination can lead to constant washing of hands and clothes or a person with OCD may need to check the iron is turned off 20 times. The compulsions can take considerable time, impacting on normal day-to-day activities. People suffering from OCD are usually aware of their behaviours and know they are excessive.
People with OCD often feel intense shame about their need to carry out these compulsions. These feelings of shame can exacerbate the problem and the shame, and consequent secrecy associated with OCD can lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatment. It can also result in social disability, such as children failing to attend school or adults becoming housebound.
So while many of us will suffer from a case of the nerves or have our own individual quirks about where we like things or a routine of the way we like things done it does not mean that we suffer from any of the above. The difference is the impact it has on our everyday lives when a condition impairs your ability to conduct and complete everyday activities.
When there is no stressor present or your reaction to the stressor is disproportionate or when it comes with additional symptoms such as sweating, headaches, nausea and a variety of others.
So what can we do in the workplace to help? An inclusive and understanding workplace culture includes an approach to your employee’s mental health, this is not only the law but has been proven to increase productivity. Learn more by reading our Employer Tips for Anxiety found here.