The word "Obsession" in psychology indicates the characteristics of a certain type of neurosis: obsessive neurosis.

This disorder can provoke:

  • the irrational and uncontrollable need to do, or avoid doing a certain action or series of actions
  • needing to think of a specific subject, maybe multiple times in a row, without being able to stop oneself from doing so
  • the need to satisfy these perceived obligations in a mechanical and repetitive way
  • the lack of satisfaction and anxiety that remains present, even though the person has repeated his/her obsessions multiple times
  • the fact that the person realizes how absurd his/her actions and thoughts are, but cannot help repeating the actions over and over again

Obsession represents a of type magical rite or ritual that, at the beginning helps relax and reduce anxiety in the person doing that action, but, after a while, the ritual no longer helps him/her calm down, but becomes an autonomous phenomenon, which continues on its own forcing the person to repeat it over and over again, often without any benefits.

Obsession therefore transforms the ritual into a psychological disorder, which turns the person suffering from it into a prisoner: an obsessive rite, that instead of keeping anxiety at bay, has only renewed and increased it.

Under certain aspects, obsession has things in common with drug addiction:

  • the person who suffers from it has difficulty quitting
  • trying to hold back the satisfaction is not always possible, and always leads to suffering
  • the obsessive thought (like drugs), slowly takes over the conscious mind
  • obsession is often felt like something that is beyond the willpower of the person suffering from it
  • with the passing of time the situation tends to get worse.

The so-called "tic" can represent a particular type of obsessive ritual, which has become completely autonomous: those who suffer from it, over time, produce this symptom in an increasingly automatic and mechanical manner; if, in the beginning the tic happened only in certain circumstances, maybe under anxiety or tension, with the worsening of the obsessive state, the tic will randomly appear without provocation during the day.

If they are analyzed with psychological instruments, obsessions often reveal, in a symbolic way, the feeling and fears of the person doing the actions.

Taking into account that generalizations are always imprecise, and that the symptoms must be referred to the complexity of the person, we can try to widely interpret, certain types of obsessions:

  • those who, once they are in bed, feel they must get up to check everything, if the lights are off, that the gas or water are off; are actually trying to keep the energy (electricity, gas) under control, but are actually afraid of their own personal energy, they are afraid of letting themselves go, they are afraid of losing control
  • those who wash their hands and body too many times a day, to eliminate dirt that is not there, maybe feel "dirty" inside, and cannot or do not want to face the situation, they cannot understand how to "clean their souls" and therefore clean their hands or take showers that last over half an hour
  • those who, while driving their cars, continuously check whether or not the emergency brakes are on, should maybe look inside themselves to find out where those psychological brakes are coming from in their lives
  • those, who, once they get home, always put everything in order in the same repetitive way, should maybe try and understand that the true disorder is not on the outside, but on the inside and try to order their thoughts
  • those who, when they get home disinfect their hands with alcohol, and then maybe disinfect under their shoes in order to avoid getting diseases from the dirt that is outside, should try to strengthen the barriers of their self, that psychological "wall", that should be there to help us navigate the world without letting the world enter us.

Even tics can be interpreted in the same way:

  • those who tend to close their eyes when they are speaking to others, are maybe ashamed of certain parts of themselves, and are afraid, not so much of watching insomuch as being looked at straight in the eyes
  • those who wink are maybe trying to make others feel like they are closer somehow, more intimate
  • those who shrug their shoulders, are maybe trying to wards off bad thoughts, bad luck or feeling of guilt
  • those who wrinkle their noses are maybe expressing their undeclared distaste for the world in around them
  • those who continue to comb back their hair with their hand are maybe using their hair as some sort of protection from the outside world, a sort of curtain that can be drawn open or closed
  • those who often push something away with their hands or arms are maybe trying to keep the world away from them, maybe they would like to push their worries away.

In psychology the word "Mania" indicates a mood disorder that is characterized by what is commonly called being "excessive or unusual", meaning:

  • feelings of excessive euphoria, good mood and happiness
  • exaggerated belief in oneself, without limits or self-criticism
  • continuously planning things to do in the future and losing touch with the present reality
  • never staying still, always talking, not listening to what others are thinking about
  • being uninhibited, sometimes brazen or simply irritating
  • having a series of thoughts come to mind, pass and then get forgotten, always replaced by new thoughts and projects
  • feeling an instinctive and sometimes wild love of life
  • feeling pervaded by sexual energy and trying to have a very intense sex life
  • being unable, sometimes, to uphold a complex discussion, and being continuously distracted by what is happening around
  • continuing to make mental associations and jumping from one thought to the next
  • feeling constantly full of high spirits and vital, but at the same time, confused and sometimes even desperate

In psychological terms therefore, we can say that a person in a euphoric state is going through a manic crisis; if the crisis is not very serious it is indicated as a "hypo manic state"; while in common terms a person who has a particularly strong passion for something is called a "maniac".

According to a certain interpretation, the word "mania" could derive from the word "mana". For the natives of Polynesia, "mana" represents an unstoppable vital energy that comes from the Gods, and is present in differing measures in men, animals, plants and natural phenomena.

According to this interpretation, if a person demonstrates maniacal behavior, this is happening because in that moment the person is seized by the Gods, he is "possessed", as it used to be called, and is therefore in prey to mana.

According to others, the word mania comes from Ancient Greek, from the verb "mainesthai" which means to be furious, crazy and out of one's mind.

Before concluding, let's remember that in psychiatry, the words "mania" and "manic" are also used to indicate a certain type of depression: clothimia or manic depressive syndrome or bipolar disorder.

Indeed, the most commonly known form of depression is simple depression or monopolar disorder, characterized by:

  • sadness
  • lack of believe in oneself
  • guilt
  • the desire for punishment
  • slowing down of thoughts
  • inability to make projects for the future
  • deep sadness and pessimism
  • the feeling that time never passes
  • difficulty falling asleep or going to bed early in the evening with the desire of sleeping forever
  • waking up extremely early in the mornings with feelings of anxiety
  • feelings of uselessness and desire for death

The other type of depression, which is also called bipolar disorder or manic syndrome or cyclothimia, develop different symptoms.

Those suffering from this disorder, alternate phases of extreme sadness (as described for simple depression or monopolar disorder) with manic episodes, meaning episodes of excessive euphoria or happiness.

All of these disorders, if they do not create a serious disability for those suffering from them, can be faced with a fairly high percentage of success, through psychotherapy, which must be adapted to the problems of the individual.

If, on the other hand, obsessions, manias and depressions make a normal, active life impossible, it would be best to use medicine along with psychotherapy.

In conclusion, to have an idea, even if it is a bit "fictionalized", of how these disorders work, I suggest watching two films:

  • "As Good as it Gets" directed by J.L. Brooks, in which Jack Nicholson interprets the part of a man suffering from serious obsessions and has invented a series of obsessive rituals to try to placate his anxiety
  • "Mister Jones" directed by M. Figgis, in which Richard Gere highlights the sufferance of bipolar disorder, alternating phases of serious depression with phases of explosive vitality.