According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2010), there is no sustainable evidence that can justify the occurrence of obsessive-compulsive disorder to some people. Scholars argue that the obsessive-compulsive disorder is a trait passed down from the parent to their offspring. However, there are some families with history of OCD do not exhibit the obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Although the origins of OCD remain an enigma to the scientists, it is a psychological disorder that mostly affects the female population. For the sake of clarity, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder will be substituted as OCD in the text. OCD patients often deal with repetitive actions, unwanted thoughts that cause anxiety. The purpose of this study is to analyze whether the female population is really at risk of having OCD disorder.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: An Overview
People with OCD tend to be more paranoid not only of their environment, but their actions as well. The repetitive actions which characterize the people with OCD were the result of their habit (routine actions) which eventually becomes a part of their daily lives. Unlike the normal people, individuals with OCD are anxious to feel ‘secured’ which results to them checking everything from the locks of the door knobs, locks of the windows, dust on the tabletops, and even over cleaning their gadgets to get rid of the germs. It might be right to say that the best way to irritate an OCD person is to have a messy house or poorly arranged house or office equipment. In the end, their burgeoning desire to check and repeat every action they already did before controls them and this becomes an obsession in their later life. Obsession to the routines they always do every day provides them a sense of ‘security’ and comfort knowing that their clothes are germ free, their counters are dustless. One typical trait of people with OCD is that they tend to overdo everything especially in terms of cleaning. Psychologist Natallia E. Sullivan wrote her paper called Factors Related to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and explained it in that OCD is also categorized by the degree of severity; ranging from mild OCD to severe OCD and as explained earlier, severe OCD is the overdoing of the actions. Some people exhibit mild to OCD whilst others suffer the chronic attacks of OCD; making them restless until they arranged everything spick-and-span.
“Most people with OCD experience obsessions and compulsions at the same time. Although it is previously known as a rare illness, OCD began to develop in individuals regardless of gender” (Sullivan, n.d.).
Furthermore, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (n.d.) also supported Sullivan’s claim that the cause of OCD behavior is due to the genetic malfunction and brain chemistry. Additionally, OCD symptoms are sometimes triggered by the past events of a person’s life and personality. For example, if a person with OCD hears about the news of burglary in his or her neighborhood; they will not only double-check but they will perform triple or more checks just to make sure that everything is in order. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2010), some people can be diagnosed of OCD as early as 19 years old.
“The frequent upsetting thoughts are called obsessions. To try to control them, a person will feel an overwhelming urge to repeat certain rituals or behaviors called compulsions. Moreover, if the condition is severe, some people with OCD cannot control their obsessions and compulsions.” (National Institute of Mental Health, 2010; p. 2). Nowadays, OCD can be treated through psychotherapy and through the use of anti-depressant drugs. There are anti-depressants who take a long time to work; usually within the period of 10-12 weeks. Without treatment, OCD can hinder a person’s life because instead being productive, the thoughts and habits that they have controls them up to the point that they spend long hours of checking the locks, washing their hands for a long time, and even spend another long hours cleaning the one part of the house until they are convinced that there are no microbes present in the area. However, people with OCD tend to be more irritated when they were not able to do their daily routines. The obsessive compulsive disorder affects the lives of many people. According to the data gathered by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, OCD is one of the most notable and common illness in the United States roughly affecting nearly 18% of the American population (Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 1999; qtd. in Anxiety and Depression Association of America, n.d.).
Women and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
For years, scholars have debated whether gender is linked to the prevalence of OCD symptoms in some individuals. Kinrys and Wygant (2005) noted that compared to men, females have a tendency to develop permanent anxiety disorders. Kessler et al., (2005) used the data gathered by the U.S. community survey as an additional evidence to show that there might be a nexus between gender and OCD symptoms amongst individuals. “According to U.S. community surveys, women are significantly more likely than men to develop panic disorder (7.7% vs. 2.9%), GAD (6.6% vs. 3.6%), or PTSD (12.5% vs. 6.2%) during their lifetime” (qtd. in Kinrys and Wygant 2005; p. 544). Similarly, another study conducted by Maggini et al., (2001) also noted that girls exhibit the earliest signs of OCD in their early childhood whenever they touch dirty things which causes them to show some obsessive-compulsive behaviors (qtd. in Sullivan, n.d.). ‘Dirtophobia’ was a term coined by Maggini to describe the little girls’ way of desperately removing the dirt on their clothes. Other studies conducted by various researches also reported the same thing that females even at the early age often show some mild symptoms of OCD behavior compared to the males. Furthermore, Noshirvani et al., (1991) reiterated that it is indeed not surprising to see that women topped the men in surveys concerning which gender showed the dominant OCD signs (qtd. in Sullivan, n.d.). According his explanation, women had more history of depression and sadness compared to the men. Women diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) were more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression, irritability, muscle rigidity, and sleep deprivation (Kinrys and Wygant, 2005; p. 544). Women with OCD tend to display some aggressive and become easily irritated whenever they cannot do their usual routine such as cleaning the windows excessively than normal, checking the lock of both windows and doors, and polishing the house tabletops to ensure that there is no dirt and germ present.
Furthermore, Russell et al., (2013) claimed that women who just went after childbirth also displayed some symptoms of OCD. Based on their studies, the researchers noted that most new mothers who often exhibit such attentiveness towards the child; attentiveness includes constantly checking of the child’s hand or bottles are not contaminated with bacteria. As first time parents, women after the pregnancy becomes more focused on their babies even up to the point of checking everything just to make sure that their infant is safe from the microbial infections. However, Russell et al., (2013) thinks that such overprotectiveness towards the child; the mother’s overprotectiveness conveys a hidden message that even in the house there is a harm that can happen anytime. In addition Russell et al., (2013) concluded that: “Women with obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders (eg, trichotillomania) may also show the same exacerbation of symptoms across reproductive events as seen in OCD” (Russell et al., 2013; p. 384). On the other hand, although women are most likely to develop lifetime anxiety, studies conducted by Mathis et al., (2011) showed that compared to boys, women had simpler disorders. OCD in boys diagnosed with Tourette syndrome often had recurring attacks like tics and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Moreover, the obsessive-compulsive disorder is manageable through the use of anti-depressants and psychotherapies. These activities, especially the psychotherapy serves as the ‘talking cure’ wherein a patient becomes preoccupied with talking and explaining about his or her symptoms that they already forget their habitual actions. Without treatment, OCD can become severe over the course time. According to Veale et al., (2009), unmanageable OCD can be fatal to one’s interpersonal relationship. Of course, when interacting with other people, it is inevitable that we might get dirty especially if both parties are engrossed with sports. A person with severe OCD symptom can offend or irritate some of his or her team mates by constantly rubbing off the dirt on their shirts for fear of contaminating the body with germs. Veale points out that it is unhealthy to have dirt phobia because it can result to poor body nourishment.
“a person with contamination fears in relation to eating and drinking may severely restrict food and fluid intake, leading in some cases to dehydration, malnourishment, and in children growth retardation and arrested pubertal development” (Veale et al., 2009; p. 333). Another thing that Veale points out is that people with OCD tend to resort more often to disinfect the part of the body that has been in contact with dirt. Living with OCD is indeed very difficult because without proper management, the illness may end up controlling people; thereby depriving an individual with a freedom of movement without being worried whether they end up dirtying themselves.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (n.d.). “Facts and Statistics.” Web. Access date 18 April 2015. http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
Kinrys, G., & Wygant, L.E. (2005). “Anxiety Disorders in Women: Does Gender Matter to Treatment.” Revista Brasileira de Psiquitaria, 27 543-550. http://www.scielo.br/pdf/rbp/v27s2/a03v27s2.pdf
Mathis, M.A., Alvarenga, P., Funaro, G., Torresan, R.C., Moraes, I., Torres, A.R., Zilberman, M.L., & Hounie, A.G. (2011). “Gender Differences in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Literature Review.” Elsevier Revista Brasileira de Psiquitaria, 33(4): 390-399. http://www.scielo.br/pdf/rbp/v33n4/v33n4a14.pdf
Russell, E.J., Fawcett, J.M., & Mazmanian, D. (2013). “Risk of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Pregnant and Postpartum Women: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 7(4): 377-385. http://www.researchgate.net/publication/236260180_Risk_of_Obsessive-Compulsive_Disorder_in_Pregnant_and_Postpartum_Women_A_Meta-Analysis
Sullivan, N. E. “Factors Related to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.” (n.d.). Web. Accessed date 18 April 2015. http://www.mckendree.edu/academics/scholars/issue10/sullivan.htm
Veale, D., Freeston, M., Krebs, G., Heyman, I., & Salkovskis, P. (2009). “Risk Assessment in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.” Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 15(5). 332-343. http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/aptrcpsych/15/5/332.full.pdf