Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder(OCD)

An Overview

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.


Signs and Symptoms

1.Obsessions -where an unwanted thought, image or urge repeatedly enters your mind 2.Anxiety -the obsession provokes intense anxiety and distress 3.Compulsion -repetitive behaviours or mental acts are performed to bring about relief to the distress or anxiety 4.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.


Research indicates that there is no single cause of OCD. Most experts agree that a combination of biological and psychological and sociocultural factors play a significant role in the genesis of OCD. Certain neurotransmitters, a chemical messenger in the brain, have been associated with the development of OCD. The decrease in Serotonin and Dopamine has been linked to the development of OCD. Research has shown that most people without OCD have thoughts, urges, or images similar to the ones reported by people with OCD. It is not the obsession itself that is the problem; it is the way the obsession is interpreted.

Can OCD go away?

The process of recovery from OCD, like the onset of the illness, is gradual and ongoing. Cognitive-behavioural therapy and medication usually help reduce the symptoms of OCD.

Assessment and Diagnosis

Many people have unwanted thoughts, worries, and behavioural routines. We may dwell on unpleasant thoughts, worry needlessly about our loved ones or bite our nails. An accurate diagnosis of OCD differentiates between those behaviours and the actual disorder. The essential features of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are recurrent obsessions or compulsions that are severe enough to be time-consuming (i.e. they take more than 1 hour a day) or cause marked distress or significant impairment.



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.


How Therapy Works

In ERP practice, a person will expose themselves to a situation that triggers anxiety, and then prevent the usual OCD response (compulsion or avoidance). ERP is based on the idea that problematic anxiety is often a learned process, and can, therefore, be unlearned. In ERP, people confront feared situations in a controlled and gradual fashion with the help of a therapist.


“Pretty hard to see when you refuse to look. Pretty hard to hear when you refuse to listen.”