Kathmandu, Jan. 4: Manisha Acharya, 33, a mother of seven-month-old, has a fear of harming her baby and is excessively concerned about germs. Because of this, she spends most of her time in cleaning and washing and asks those around her to do the same.
“I cannot sleep or relax properly, as I have a flurry of fleeting thoughts that my baby may catch germs or get ill,” she explained. Such thoughts have been keeping her awake at night, affecting her wellbeing.
According to psychologists, occasional experience of worries about baby is absolutely normal and is common in new mothers. However, if such recurring thoughts and behaviours starts adversely impacting one’s wellbeing and experiences of parenting, one need to seek medical help. It may be postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Another Niranjan Sharma, 41, (name changed) of Kathmandu, was exhausted mentally with the disturbing sexual thoughts or images. “I thought that I was cursed or possessed by evil spirits. I felt so guilty over my thoughts,” said Sharma.
I had to go through this alone due to the fear of stigmatisation. I had the nightmare that my loved ones would desert me, said Sharma. But after diagnosed with OCD and going through therapies and medication, I am regaining my life, he added.
What is OCD?
OCD is categorised by intense anxiety, uncontrollable, repetitive, and intrusive thoughts (obsessions). To reduce anxiety, the affected person will often engage in repeated actions or behaviours (compulsions), according to doctors.
Those suffering from OCD may struggle with self-esteem issues, or feeling of shame, embarrassment, and insecurity. It can be distressing, but treatment can keep it under control, said Dr. Ananta Adhikari, consultant neuropsychiatrist and director at Mental Hospital, Patan.
Due to anxiety and compulsions, people with OCD complains of having trouble not only with family and loved ones but also with performance and punctuality in workplace as well, said Dr. Adhikari. It is very imperative to seek professional help as it is treatable, he added.
According to Dr. Bhuwan Dhakal, a psychologist, common obsessions that affect people with OCD include fear of deliberately or mistakenly harming yourself or others, fear of contamination by germs, infection or an unpleasant substance. Some patients even feel a need for symmetry or orderliness; others complain about doubting and unwanted thoughts, including aggression or sexual. The patients experience horrible thoughts, but will not act them, informed Dr. Dhakal.
Compulsions start in an effort to reduce or prevent anxiety caused by the obsessive thought, said Dr. Dhakal. They have common types of compulsive behaviour including cleaning and hand washing, checking – such as checking if doors are locked or not, counting while walking, ordering and arranging things, asking for reassurance and repeating words in their head.
What can be done
OCD generally gets worse when you experience greater stress which leads to anxiety. If left untreated, it may also develop other serious mental health problems including depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorder and hoarding disorder, warned Dr. Dhakal.
Spreading awareness about OCD among the public is essential. Specific treatment strategies can help people with OCD regain control over symptoms and lead a quality of life, argue psychologists.
According to Dr. Adhikari, treatment for OCD is very effective and most people who receive treatment recover completely within two years. Based on the severity of patients, treatment ranges from varieties of medications and therapies. In mild cases cognitive behavioural therapies could help while medications are prescribed for severe cases, he added.