V. Test Design (25%)
We all have that friend who seems to be obsessed with keeping things neat and organized. Whether they color-code their
shock drawer or are compelled to arrange their things in a particular order, they’re likely to shrug off their quirks by saying
“I’m really OCD sometimes.” But do such habits qualify assymptoms of an actual disorder?
Contrary to how it’s often talked about, OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder, doesn’t just involve a preference for
keeping things orderly. It’s characterized by uncontrollable and unwanted thoughts, known as obsessions, and the persistent
urge to perform repetitive acts, known as compulsions. For instance, an obsession might be the assumption that certain numbers
are “good” while others are “bad.” Meanwhile, a compulsion could be expressed as a sufferer feeling an excessive need to wash
their hands a specific number of times after touching something they deem unclean.
While the scope of these obsessions and compulsions can vary, they typically manifest themselves in at least one of four
core behaviors. The first is when a sufferer constantly checks items such as locks, ovens, light switches, or something else. The
second is a fear of contamination, usually liked to compulsive cleaning, while the third is a need to arrange things in particular
ways, often symmetrically. Finally, a sufferer might be tormented by spiraling thoughts, with violent disturbing images playing
over and over in their minds. Though people with this anxiety order can usually recognize how bizarre these rituals are, they are
overwhelmed by a sense that they’re powerless to break free of the cycle.
While the excessive nature of OCD can make it seem hard to overcome, someone with this disorder can learn to manage
it. The first step toward a breakthrough is to acknowledge any known triggers and list the ideas and situations that prompt
abnormal responses. By tracking their triggers, sufferers can better anticipate their urges and ultimately suppress them. For
instance, a person may have the stressful compulsion to repeatedly check that the front door locked. In this case, they may find
that paying close attention when they first put the key in the lock will spare them their usual impulses later.
Some experts suggest using a graded “fear ladder,” with the sufferers starting by confronting lesser fears and then
working up to those that are more acute. For example, they might tackle a fear of contamination by phasing out repetition as a
coping mechanism, first in a controlled environment—such as their own kitchen—and later in more threatening environments,
such as public restrooms.
In these distressing situations, it’s critical to challenge obsessive thoughts. Sufferers should ask themselves: “Am I
equating an irrational idea with a fact?” “How does obsessing over it help me or hurt me?”, and “Can I view the situation in a
more positive way?” Contemplating these answers helps sufferers recognize that their habits are irrational and damaging.
Finally, a sufferer should remember to reach out for support. Talking to a sympathetic friend can make worries feel less
menacing and remind someone that they have a support system. With these changes of mentality, people with OCD can journey
toward a happier and healthier future.