What is OCD?
OCD is a condition which can cause you to have unwanted recurring thoughts, ideas or urges (obsessions) that drive you to carry out a particular behaviour repeatedly (compulsions). These repetitive behaviours – or mental acts – are meant to relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the thought or stop something bad from happening. However, they tend to only provide short-term relief and leave you feeling much worse in the long-term.
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 entire life.
What are the symptoms of OCD?
- Obsessions – where an unwanted thought, image or urge repeatedly enters your mind
- Anxiety – the obsession provokes intense anxiety
- Compulsion – repetitive behaviours -or mental acts – are performed to bring about relief from the anxiety
- Temporary relief – the compulsive behaviour brings about temporary relief but soon enough, the anxiety and obsession returns
The compulsive behaviours people engage in can also vary from: counting, reassurance seeking, 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. This will involve graded exposure and response prevention (ERP). The focus will be on experiencing the obsessive thought/s without acting on them or trying to ‘neutralise’ them with compulsive behaviour.
If your OCD is severe, it can help to have a consultation with a Consultant Psychiatrist to consider medication options to help you manage your symptoms.
Frequently asked questions
It’s important to get help for OCD if your obsessive thoughts are beginning to interfere with your daily life or you find yourself spending a lot of time engaging in rituals (or compulsions) in order to manage your anxiety.
I feel really scared about exposing myself to situations that make me feel anxious - should I still seek treatment?
It’s normal to feel anxious about exposing yourself to situations you find difficult. During your sessions, your therapist will make a judgement call around what they believe you can safely manage and tolerate and develop a very graded plan so you can make progress in a way that is always taking into account your levels of anxiety and discomfort.