OCD

An Overview

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a common disorder in which the individual suffers from obsessive thoughts and subsequently engages in compulsive act in order to manage these thoughts. A person experiences obsession when an unwanted thought, image, or urge repeatedly enters the person’s mind, causing disgust, feelings of anxiety, or unease. Compulsion is when the person engages in repetitive behaviour when s/he feels the needs 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 behaviors 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.

Causes

Recent research indicates that there is no single cause of OCD. Most experts agree that a combination of biological, psychological, and socio-cultural factors play a significant role in the genesis of OCD. Also, 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.

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

In general, many people have worries and unwanted thoughts. A person may worry needlessly about their loved ones. An accurate diagnosis of OCD differentiates between those behaviors and the actual disorder. The essential features of OCD are recurrent obsessive thoughts and compulsive acts that are severe enough to cause marked distress or significant impairment in person’s life.

 

 

Treatment

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

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is popularly used for the treatment of OCD in which people confront feared situations in a controlled and gradual fashion with the help of a therapist. In ERP, a person is exposed to a situation or objects that trigger anxiety and simultaneously, he/she is guided to prevent the usual OCD response. Exposure and Response Prevention acts on the idea that the problematic anxiety is often a learned process, and therefore it can be unlearned.

 

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