Dr.Krishna Prasad Sreedhar


Once in a way all of us have lingering thoughts in our mind. These thoughts keep coming to the mind even though we do not want them to be there. Their repetitive nature bother us to some extend. Some times we notice that the lines of a song keep coming to our mind though we do not want it. So also some of us are compelled to act in a certain way though we know them to be irrational and stupid. Yet we simply cannot escape from doing it as we experience a feeling of dissatisfaction if we do not do them. These are called obsessive ruminations and compulsions. However, they are not considered pathological as the tendency disappears soon. So also if we try to control them we do not feel abnormal levels of anxiety.

There are some people who suffer from an affliction called OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER. This is known as a disorder as the person suffering from it cannot simply escape from the thoughts and actions and cause great misery. For example once a person suffered from repetitive cleaning of his hands as he started feeling that there was dirt in his hands. He also felt that if he did not wash his hands germs would get into him while he ate. Another person suddenly started getting a fear of Rabies. The sight of a dog was sufficient for him to have a chain of very unpleasant thoughts regarding Rabies and all its horrible consequences. When confronted he admitted that his was an irrational fear and that there was no scientific basis for his lingering fear. After the onset of his disorder he read a lot of scientific literature and knew every thing about the disorder. He knew very well that mere sight of a dog would not produce Rabies. But he could not escape from the thoughts. Subsequently he stopped visiting his relatives who had a dog at home. He started wearing a pair of socks even while sleeping to avoid the possibility of getting infected. On the road he would not get out of his car while meeting friends and relatives. Later the disorder became so crippling that he stopped moving out of his house much to the dismay of his wife. From reported cases it is estimated that approximately 20 to 30 percent of people suffer from this affliction. The main categories of this disorder are frequent CLEANING, CHECKING and COUNTING.


As shown above there are many persons who suffer from frequent cleaning of their hands or the whole body. These people get a feeling that they have touched dirt and that they must clean their body parts. One patient went to the extreme of cleaning her hand several times in a day that the skin of her hands became dry. She started using soaps and strong detergents that eventually she had to be treated by a skin specialist. A man with a similar condition started wearing a pair of gloves all the time. He could eat only with the help of a spoon.


Some people suffer from frequent checking. There was a patient who would go to any extent to check whether he had locked his house. After locking and checking for eight times he used to call his wife and make her check and say loudly that the house is locked. Then he would call his two sons and make them check ‘thoroughly’. As the disorder progressed he began to bother his neighbors who should also come and check whether the house is locked!



Some patients develop this disorder in the form of repetitive counting especially when they do certain activities. A student once developed the compulsion to count the number of electric bulbs before going for the examination. He used to count the bulbs at home four times in each room consuming a lot of his precious time. Another student developed the habit of opening and closing his pen twenty one times before entering the examination hall. Children often does not tell these difficulties out side and all that the parents and teachers would notice is that the child’s academic performance has come down drastically. When asked, the first child reported that he counted the bulbs in order to have better clarity in his thinking before the examination. The second child felt that the questions in the examination would become simpler if he closed his pen repeatedly.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is described as frequent repetitive thoughts and or actions occurring in a person, which the person feels it to be anxiety provoking and that he simply cannot stamp them out of his mind though he knows them to be totally irrational and unscientific.


Fortunately now there are drug and behavior therapies. Though both can improve the condition to a large extent a combination of these is considered the best.