Obsessive Phases: Are they signs of OCD?

Ever had a hobby you loved? Something you used to spend every waking hour dreaming about? Now you see a coin collection gathering dust in the corner of your room. Or probably a musical instrument that hasn’t been touched for years.

Wonder what happened? Where did the magic go? Why do I get obsessed with things and then lose interest?

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Now you ask yourself “Am I going through obsessive phases?”. Does it have anything to do with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD? Don’t panic.

This article will show you what you need to know about obsessive phases, and how to manage them.

So let’s get into it.

What exactly is Considered “Obsessive Phases”?

Obsessive phases are a common occurrence. It is an experience shared by millions of people. There’s nothing objectively wrong with going through such a phase. Obsessive phases usually stem from an area of deep fascination or attraction.

OCD Cycle

The allure of that particular subject overwhelms us and completely occupies our thoughts. We are engrossed by it and this period can last from days to weeks and even years.

However, this period only lasts till the next one takes its place. A new fascination takes hold of our consciousness and the previous suddenly fades into the backlogs of our memories.

The reason can be as simple as a change of heart. Or as complicated and complex as psychological changes which are influenced by various factors such as age, sex, environment, etc.

Our behavior is modified at every stage of our lives. Our interests also change drastically from one point in our lives to another. So we move on from one thing to another adjusting what we learn from each experience to our life.

But the reality is the same, you eventually lose interest. Looking back at the remnants of those phases brings no outburst of emotion. There is no sense of accomplishment, just nostalgia, and a faint melancholy. What you see is a now disinterested obsession. But it begs the question, why?

Why Am I Going Through Obsessive Phases?

Obsessive phases are common during childhood and adolescence. This is the time of our lives when we are most receptive to new ideas and experiences.

People go through obsessive phases multiple times in years between being a toddler and becoming an adult. That’s why you can look back to find many of these childhood obsessions that you’ve eventually grown out from.

For many people, this attraction to new and interesting experiences can last even till adulthood.

I have a friend who has changed majors in college twice and learned to play guitar. He then got into bike-riding, then DIY electronics. And now his current hobby is baking. So as you can see, age is literally just a number.

So the question, “Why do I have obsessive phases?”

Though we don’t exactly know what triggers these obsessive stages. It has a lot to do with a person’s psychological traits and personality. It’s usually seen that people who are more creative and emotion-oriented are likely to go through multiple obsessive phases.

People with both extroverted and introverted personalities may develop these kinds of obsessions. So are people with bipolar personality disorder and on the Asperger’s spectrum. They are more prone to experience obsessive phases followed by total disinterest.

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OCD vs Obsessive Phases

On the surface, OCD and obsessive phases may seem similar but they are vastly different. ‘Obsession phrases’ are used so casually and frequently. In today’s world, they are used to describe even the most trivial fascinations. Like being ‘obsessed with a band’ or being ‘obsessed with a new trend’.

But these are obsessions of pleasure and they don’t hamper our day-to-day life at all. In a way, it diminishes the struggle people with OCD go through just to live a normal life.

The most important difference between obsessive phases and OCD is that the former comes about voluntarily by the person. The area of obsession is something that the individual enjoys and derives pleasure from.

In the case of OCD, the person is trapped by these obsessive thoughts and finds them disturbing. They will often openly admit that these thoughts are uncomfortable and they would be better off without them.

Another key area of difference is that in the case of OCD, these obsessive thoughts and behavior prevent these people from leading a normal life. They will find it very difficult to adjust to society. This is because their actions and behaviors are odd. Sometimes even offensive to others.

This further adds to their anxiety and despair creating a vicious cycle of mental anguish. On the other hand, obsessive phases are generally harmless.

They are under the control of the individual and shaped around their everyday life. So they do not face any obstacles in being functional members of society.

OCD patients will resort to cyclic or repetitive actions to alleviate their obsessive thoughts. This compulsive behavior is out of their control. They perform actions repeatedly until it ‘feels right’ to them.

Like washing hands a certain number of times, checking locks on doors repeatedly, rewriting or rechecking something. Even arranging and rearranging articles, furniture, personal items, etc.

People with OCD will repeat this kind of behavior or action a specific number of times that they believe is ‘right’, ‘good’, or ‘safe’.

This is a characteristic present in almost every case of OCD. However, obsessive phases have almost no relation with compulsive behavior. Their behavior is normal during the period of obsession and after it has passed.

Are Obsessive Phases Caused by OCD?

OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It is a mental disorder where people suffer from intrusive thoughts about a specific thing and are compelled to do certain cyclic repetitive actions.

These people find these thoughts to be unpleasant and distracting. Their compulsive actions are completely out of their control. These actions may include washing hands a specific number of times, arranging something in a specific order, picking at a specific part of the body, etc.

OCD is a severe neurological condition and it is quite a bit more serious than obsessive phases. Those who suffer from OCD have difficulty in performing basic acts to integrate into society like having a job, maintaining a relationship, or even communicating their feelings.

Like obsessive phases, the exact cause of OCD is not yet known. But there are some clues to suggest how OCDs may develop. Brain scans of OCD patients have shown slight changes in pathways that connect the frontal cortex with the deeper aspects of the brain.

Scientists believe that these changes may cause deviations in the actions of neurotransmitters and chemical messengers that eventually can result in OCD. OCD is also hereditary, so genetics play a crucial role.

Another cause of OCDs is PANDAS or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections. These are psychiatric conditions developed in children from an infection that may eventually lead to OCD.

How do You Deal With Obsessive Phases?

Obsessive phases are quite natural, especially for children and teenagers. The period of this obsession can vary from a few days to even years. But this form of obsessive behavior is generally harmless. It normally dissolves on its own as the person matures and his thoughts develop.

But if you are looking to snap yourself out of an obsessive phase or fall into them too frequently, you can try the following tips:

  • Distract yourself. Find other things of interest and focus there. This will help you ease out of your current phase and lessen the grip of an obsession.
  • Take breaks. If you are into something and can’t seem to get out of it, tell yourself that you’ll take a break. Most phases have goals embedded in them. Tell yourself that once you reach that next milestone, you’ll be taking a break from it and do something else.
  • Talk to people. Socialize with friends and family. Spending quality time with loved ones helps your mind adjust to the bigger picture and grounds you to reality. This helps you break out of the fantasy.
  • Take care of your health. Meditate, go on walks, exercise, try yoga. Physical activities help clear your mind and oftentimes keep you busy and active. This means less time spent in whatever you are engrossed in.

What if you actually have OCD?

There is no cure for OCD. But thankfully, it can be managed to reduce its symptoms and allow a person to live a normal life.

There are many ways to treat OCD. These treatments may involve therapy, group sessions, medication, and lifestyle adjustment. Neuropsychiatric disorders can be very difficult to overcome but with patience and perseverance, a person can successfully manage their compulsive behaviors to a level almost close to normal.

Therapy:

Therapy is the main form of treatment for OCD. Psychotherapy treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)s and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapies are particularly effective in helping with OCD.

These treatments normally involve speaking with a therapist regarding your thoughts, memories, and emotions. The therapy also involves scenario training that brings you face to face with a situation. Which may trigger your OCD and then learning to slowly adapt and overcome them.

This might seem frightening and distressful at first. But it goes a long way to train yourself to control your urges and compulsions.

Medication:

The next form of treatment involves medication. If your therapist prescribes you medication for your OCD, that means that it is probably a severe case and psychotherapy is not yielding the desired results.

Psychiatric medication like SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are normally suggested for OCD patients. But these drugs may come with side-effects such as agitation, shakiness, diarrhea, insomnia, etc.

The idea is to keep your mind fresh and active to help you concentrate on your regular activities. Some non-pharmaceutical alternatives can also help to promote healthy brain function along with improved memory.

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The Last Word

So finally, we hope this article helped you to understand whether you’re going through obsessive phases or suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

OCD is a complex problem with no easy solutions. But it can get better. Following the guidance of a licensed care provider, keeping healthy, following a routine, and taking medication can help you improve your condition by a lot.

So if you have OCD, don’t lose hope. Your life is always in your own hands.

FAQs

Q. Why do I go through phases?

Going through phases are normal and a part of the development of the human psyche. Most of the time, we grow out of these phases and they cause no problems in our everyday life.

Q. Why do I get obsessed so easily?

Obsession is different for each person. Some people can get obsessed with things more easily than others.

If these obsessions start to interfere with normal life or become obstructive to others, then professional help should be sought out.

Q. How to stop obsessive thoughts?

Obsessive thoughts can really impair our ability to live normally as they can intrude on our thinking at any time.

Try controlling your thoughts by meditation. Keep stress at a minimum and get more exercise. If all else fails, seek professional help.

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As a doctor in the making, I feel fascinated by the advancements and expansion of medical science. This fuels my passion for trying to follow a health-conscious lifestyle. I love writing and sharing thoughts and ideas with the people I care about. If my work can reach out and help people to enjoy a healthy, happy life it will be an honor for me. Muhtasim Munir MBBS (3rd year) Armed Forces Medical College

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