What is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a common disorder in which the individual suffers from obsessive thoughts and subsequently engages in compulsive activity to manage these thoughts.
An obsession is defined as an unwanted thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters the person’s mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease.
A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour (which could also be mental) that someone feels they need to carry out to relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought.
OCD symptoms can vary in terms of their severity. For some people these thoughts and compulsive behaviours can take up to an hour of their day whereas for others it can take over their life.
Symptoms of OCD
- Obsessions – where an unwanted thought, image or urge repeatedly enters your mind
- Anxiety – the obsession provokes intense anxiety and distress
- Compulsion – repetitive behaviours or mental acts are performed to bring about relief to the distress or anxiety
- Temporary relief – the compulsive behaviour only brings about temporary relief but the anxiety and obsession soon return
OCD manifests itself in different ways but some common obsessions are fear of deliberately harming yourself or others, fear of contamination by disease or infection, a need for symmetry and orderliness. The compulsive behaviours people engage in can also vary from counting, seeking reassurance repetitively, repeating words silently, extensively overthinking, thinking ‘neutralising thoughts’, cleaning and hand washing, checking and other behaviours.
Treatment for OCD
The most effective treatment for OCD is cognitive behavioural therapy involving graded exposure and response prevention, a therapy which focuses on experiencing the obsessive thoughts without trying to ‘neutralise’ them with compulsive behaviour. On some occasions if OCD is particularly severe it might be helpful to have a consultation with a Consultant Psychiatrist to consider medication options that might assist in the management of your symptoms. At The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, we have experience in the psychological treatment of OCD and in offering appropriate medication management.