OCD and Beyond

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: What does it mean to be OCD? If someone has OCD, what would be on the other end of the continuum?

Answer: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition that is manifest by unreasonable thoughts or fears (obsessions) that drive a person to perform repetitive behaviors (compulsions). It becomes a disorder when these obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress. A person with this condition may try to ignore or stop the obsessions, but that only increases his or her distress and anxiety. The person with this condition feels driven to perform compulsive acts as a means of easing the stress. If the condition is OCD, the bothersome thoughts and urges keep coming back despite effort to ignore or get rid of them. OCD often centers around certain themes, such as a fear of getting contaminated by germs. To ease the fear, the individual may compulsively wash his hands until they are sore and chapped.

Handwashing is one of the more common behaviors of OCD, but hoarding is another manifestation of OCD that has come to light in recent years. The obsessions and compulsions sometimes result in an individual finding it difficult to discard items that may be of no real value, such as old clothing, newspapers, magazines, or other meaningless items. And the person doesn’t want anyone else throwing the items away either. This type of OCD sometimes results in fears or feelings that something bad or catastrophic will happen if they throw something away.

Other individuals may experience anxious feelings of incompleteness if something is given or thrown away (i.e., he or she may need a particular document, etc. in the future). I once knew a man who hoarded old International Travelalls, a vehicle similar to a suburban. His hoarding compulsion drove to hide these vehicles out in the woods so that his wife would not find out that he had purchased another. What I found when I sold him my Travelall was a field of Travelalls hidden in the woods, many rusting out and no longer functional. He hid them in the wood so his wife wouldn’t find out that he had purchased another. But he was driven by a compulsion to buy another.

I did some research on the second part of your question, and there were a couple of articles that define Amotivational Syndrome as the opposite of OCD. Basically, Amotivational Syndrome is not caring much about anything. Amotivational Syndrome is often associated with heavy marijuana use over a prolonged period of time. It results in apathy, dullness, lethargy, and impairment of judgment.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected].

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