Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common mental health condition in which a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

It can affect men, women and children and it can come on at any age. Some people will often develop the condition early, often around puberty, but it typically develops during early adulthood.

It can be distressing and it can be a burden in your life, but treatment can help you keep it under control!

The problem is that with OCD a load of other serious mental issues can evolve, these can include: depression, eating disorders, generalised anxiety disorder and a hoarding disorder.

How this condition works is with a pattern, first you will feel the feeling of obsession, where an unwanted, distressing thought or image will repeatedly enter your mind. Anxiety will then be brought on by the constant obsessive thoughts and it will create an intense feeling of distress. Compulsion, this is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that makes you feel driven to perform as a result of the anxiety and distress your feeling caused by an obsession.

Its possible to just have obsessive thoughts or just have compulsions, but most people with OCD will experience both.

Symptoms of OCD:

  • A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that you feel you need to carry out to try to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings which are brought on by the obsessive thoughts.
  • An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or the urge that repeatedly enters your mind, causing feelings of anxiety and feeling uneasy.

Obsessive thoughts

Its safe to say that sometimes we will experience an unpleasant thought at some point, perhaps thats thinking they may have forgotten to lock the door, or something minor like this, we all experience it occasionally.

But if you have a persistent, unpleasant thought that dominates your mind and the way you think to the extent that it interrupts everything you think about, you may have an obsession.

You may have the fear of deliberately harming yourself or others, fear of harming yourself or others by mistake, leaving something on in the house that could set fire. Fear of contamination by disease, infection or an unpleasant substance. Constantly being aware that everything needs to be in order, perhaps making sure all the labels on the tins in your cupboard face the same way.

Compulsive behaviour

Compulsions arise as a way of trying to reduce or prevent the anxiety caused by the obsessive thoughts. It could be from washing your hands repeatedly. Most people with OCD realise that such compulsive behaviour is irrational and makes no logical sense, but they can’t stop acting on it and feel the need to do it ‘just in case.’

Common types of compulsive behaviour in people with OCD:

  • Cleaning and hand washing
  • Counting
  • Checking, that the doors are locked and the gas is off constantly
  • Ordering and arranging
  • Hoarding
  • Repeating words in their head
  • Avoiding places and situations that could trigger obsessive thoughts

Not all compulsive behaviours will be obvious to other people.

Causes for OCD

There is no clear explanation for how OCD is developed, a number of different factors may take part in the condition, these can be family history, so you’re more likely to develop OCD if a family member has it, possibly because its in your genes. Differences in the brain, people with OCD can have areas that are unusually high activity in their brain or low levels of chemicals called serotonin. It could possible be brought on by a life event, maybe experiencing bullying, abuse or neglect, child birth or bereavement. It could be to do with your personality, being neat, having high personal standards may be more likely to develop OCD, as may those who are generally quite anxious or have a very strong sense of responsibility for themselves and others.

Getting help

Like anything, it is important to get help when you feel lie you could have OCD as it can lead to having a significant impact on your life. If you think friends or family may have signs of OCD, try talking to them about your concerns and suggest they seek help.

It most likely will not get better on its own, treatment and support is available to help you manage your symptoms and have a better quality of life.

Visit your GP, they will ask about your symptoms and can refer you to a local psychological therapies service if necessary or you could refer yourself directly to a psychological therapy service.

Treatment for OCD

There are many effective treatments for OCD that can help reduce the impact that the condition can have on your life.

These can include:

  • Psychological therapy- this is known as a special type of cognitive behavioural therapy, that will help you face your fears and obsessive thoughts.
  • Medication- normally a type of antidepressant medication will be given known as an SSRI that can help by altering the balance of the chemicals in the brain.

Self help strategies for living with OCD:

  • Learn to cope effectively: Try to learn good coping strategies for dealing with stress like getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, meditation and sticking with a treatment plan.
  • Handle your worries: Like stress, OCD and excessive worry go hand in hand. This can particularly focus on a theme of obsessions, it could relate to everyday matters, such as paying bills or performing well at work. Unfortunately, worrying can often consume quite a bit of energy and make it hard to relax. Learning how to cope with worry, such as figuring out why you’re worried, deciding how to cope with the worst scenario that could happen, is a good self help strategy.
  • Relation: Deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can be very effective additions to helping OCD.
  • Get moving: It’s said in a lot of things, but its true. Physical activities have a lot of benefits, including reducing cholesterol levels and lower your risk or heart disease and diabetes. However, there is evidence that exercise such as running may be an important OCD self help strategy.
  • Be mindful: Be mindful of distressing and disturbing thoughts that may act as a form of exposure to feared obsessions, similar to a person who is afraid of a certain animal, spending time with it will lessen the fear. Mindfulness may help you become less invested in your thoughts and help you realise that a thought is just a collection of words or images.
  • Explore different therapies and go with what suits you best!

Call MIND on 0845 766 0163 or email info@mind.org.uk

Call OCD UK on 03332 127 890 or contact them on their website



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