How Does OCD Have an effect on Males?

0
2

*Some of our articles contain affiliate links advertising products and services we know and trust. Learn more about this in our privacy policy.

OCD is not bias; it can affect anyone. It can affect men, women, non-binary people. Typically, it starts to affect men in late adolescence and women in their early 20’s, however it can pop up at any point in life. 

What Is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, otherwise known as OCD, is a mental disorder that causes the individual to experience repetitive, intrusive thoughts or ‘obsessions’ that cause extreme anxiety. OCD sufferers will cope with these extreme bouts of anxiety by compulsively performing an anxiety easing behavior, otherwise referred to as a ‘compulsion.’ 

This cycle of experiencing anxiety due to an obsession and easing anxiety by compulsively performing a behavior can occur multiple times a day.

In extreme cases of OCD, these cycles can become so frequent that they take over the individual’s life, with little to no time left to carry on with their responsibilities and pleasures. 

An example of the OCD symptom cycle might be:

  1. ‘I picked up the remote without washing my hands first’
  2. ‘This is giving me an overwhelming amount of anxiety’
  3. ‘I’m going to wash my hands and get a wipe for the remote. I’ll have to wash my hands and the remote multiple times before I’m satisfied with the cleanliness of the remote.’
  4. ‘Now that I’ve washed my hands and the remote multiple times, I feel less anxious.’

While OCD has no single cause, it appears that a variety of psychosociological and biological factors have an impact on whether or not an individual will develop OCD, and how severe it may be. 

But how does OCD show up in men specifically? What are the common warning signs for men? And what is the best OCD treatment when it comes to treating OCD in men? 

Man with OCD washing his hands

Do I Need Help? The Mental Health Stigma for Men

Conversations around mental health are still considered taboo for many, but this is especially true when discussing mental health in men. 

Society seems to have adopted a very skewed understanding of what crying is, for example. Men who cry are often considered ‘too sensitive,’ or ‘less of a man’ or ‘weak’… or some other stronger insults that I won’t write here. Women who cry are sometimes considered ‘overly-sensitive’ or ‘too emotional.’ ‘Cry baby’ is a term that is often thrown around.

But crying is a completely natural, often uncontrollable occurrence. 

Why Do We Cry?

The lacrimal gland that sits between our eyes and eyelids both produces and drains our tears. There are 3 main reasons why humans cry: 

  1. Basal: Basal tears stop our cornea from drying. Humans produce between 5-10 ounces of basal tears per day.
  2. Reflex: Reflex tears show up to lubricate the eyes when an irritant enters the eyes, like onions or smoke. 
  3. Emotional: As our Limbic system and Hypothalamus process an intense emotion, whether it be happy or sad, it activates the autonomic nervous system, the one we can’t control. This quickens the heart rate and makes us sweat and cry. 

These emotional tears contain stress-hormone ACTH as well as the natural pain killer, Enkephalin. The presence of ACTH and Enkephalin in our emotional tears is what makes crying feel good. Typically, after a good cry, we start to feel a bit better. Our tears are literally carrying away stress-hormones. 

The benefits of crying for men, women, and non-binary people are undeniable. Yet, crying brings with it cultural and societal judgments. 

Along with crying being especially stigmatized for men, men’s mental health in general seems taboo to discuss in many cultures. 

This is the first challenge for many men with OCD. If we have grown up in an environment that hasn’t normalized conversations around mental health, it’s possible that once we experience a mental health issue, the experience is so foreign that we don’t know where to begin in accepting and treating the problem. It may even take a while to acknowledge that what we are going through is a health issue that needs addressing, just like a broken leg would need addressing.

Men Identifying There’s a Problem

We all experience intrusive thoughts from time to time, but how do we know if we’re experiencing OCD?

The anxiety that men experience with OCD will typically come from:

  • Fear of –
    • Getting injured, becoming ill, or dying
    • A loved one getting injured, becoming ill, or dying
    • Germs, being contaminated or being unclean
    • Upsetting someone of authority or someone of a higher power
    • Losing personal belongings
    • Not living up to society’s expectations
    • Causing harm to self or others
  • Intrusive sexual thoughts
  • The need for perfect order and symmetry
  • Superstitions

The behaviors carried out to calm the anxiety experienced with OCD are often referred to as ‘rituals.’ These rituals ease anxiety temporarily and need to be repeated frequently whenever the anxiety pops up.

Men with OCD will carry out a variety of anxiety easing behaviors, including:

  • Arranging objects in specific orders or patterns
  • Obsessively checking work for mistakes
  • Obsessively dwelling on past actions
  • Compulsively hoarding objects 
  • Behavioral tics, such as touching doorknobs multiple times before turning them, walking into a room multiple times before entering, tying shoelaces, and untying them before feeling satisfied. 
  • Excessively washing hands or showering
  • And many, many more

Desk of man with OCD

Coping Without Treatment

Living with unchecked and untreated OCD can make life impossible to live. Just like any form of stress and anxiety, those suffering frequently use alcohol or other substances as ways to ‘relax’ or ‘de-stress.’

The sad truth about untreated OCD is that many people turn to alcohol or other substances to ease the anxiety that OCD brings.

Due to the addictive nature of these substances and due to the compulsiveness of OCD, the use of drugs and alcohol to ease the anxiety often quickly turns into an addiction. 

The Journal of Anxiety Disorders conducted a study with 323 American adults suffering from OCD. It found that 27% met the diagnostic criteria for co-occurring substance use disorder.  

Treating OCD is already a challenge for sufferers. Treating OCD for a sufferer who is also struggling with addiction due to their OCD is especially difficult. OCD and addiction feed off of one another, and individuals experiencing OCD along with substance abuse will need a different type of treatment plan that involves some form of intensive OCD rehab therapy.

Man with OCD looking down

OCD Treatment for Men

Not only do men and women experience OCD at around the same rates, but the treatment for OCD in men and women are pretty much the same. In general, the type of OCD treatment one goes for totally depends on the individual. It depends on what sort of therapy they personally respond better to. It depends on the severity of the OCD and many other psychosocialogical and biological factors. 

We all experience OCD differently. There are so many different types of compulsions and obsessions. This is why there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to treatment. 

Typically, OCD will be treated with some form of therapy, with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Exposure Response Prevention being the preferred options for many. Medication might be prescribed alongside therapy by a doctor or certified healthcare professional. Medication should however be taken as an accompaniment to therapy treatment.

One study found that the OCD relapse rate in individuals who have been on a course of medication while simultaneously participating in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was 20%, compared to a 90% OCD relapse rate in those who are solely on a limited course of medication. Always speak with your doctor before starting a course of medication. 

Sign that reads:

Give Yourself Time to Recover

It can take a few different tries before finding the right treatment plan for you.

It can be frustrating when we have to change course, however, we encourage you to be patient. Getting to the point of finding a treatment plan is already a huge achievement. You’ve had to recognize that there’s a problem, identify the problem with a healthcare professional, and then make the decision for yourself to get treatment. That’s huge!

Give yourself the time it takes to recover. Don’t compare your recovery to anyone else’s. Again, we’re all individuals, and recovery looks different for all of us. If you’re on a treatment plan that you don’t feel is working, always be open with your healthcare professionals.