What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder in which a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. OCD can affect people at any age, however typically develops during early adulthood. OCD can be distressing and can interfere with a person’s life; however treatment can help to manage the disorder.
OCD can disrupt daily life, have an impact on relationships and physical health, and can also increase feelings of shame and loneliness.
- It is estimated that OCD affects 1.2% of the UK population
OCD appears to affect males and females equally
OCD can be diagnosed from childhood, but is most commonly diagnosed in early adulthood
What causes it?
There may be a number of factors involved in OCD. For example – family history can have a part to play here, as research suggests that an individual is more likely to develop this condition if a relative also has it. Brain differences can also be related to OCD – studies have noted that some people with OCD have high activity in certain brain areas, or low amounts of serotonin. Traumatic life events may act as a trigger for OCD, and an individual’s personality may also affect how likely a person is to develop OCD.
What are the symptoms?
OCD can affect people differently but usually causes a pattern of thoughts and behaviours.
Obsession – intrusive thoughts, that can often be distressing, continue to enter your mind. E.g. – fear of harming yourself or others, fear of contamination, a need for symmetry or orderliness
Anxiety – the obsession results in intense anxiety or distress. E.g. feeling sick, dizzy, or tense as a result of this intense worry
Compulsion – repetitive behaviours or rituals that people with OCD feel the urge to carry out emerge. E.g. cleaning and hand washing, checking, counting, ordering, hoarding, asking for reassurance, repeating words, thinking neutralising thoughts to counter obsessive thoughts, avoiding potential triggers
Temporary relief – the compulsive behaviours can relieve the anxiety for a little while, however the obsession and anxiety can return, creating this vicious cycle
How is it diagnosed?
If an individual feels they may have OCD, getting a diagnosis tends to start with a visit to their GP. The GP will listen to the individual’s symptoms, and may refer them on to a mental health specialist for an assessment. This assessment may be carried out by a mental health nurse, psychiatrist or psychologist; where they will ask a number of questions which can relate to OCD symptoms and also symptoms of other mental health problems.
How is it treated?
The NHS recommends two main forms of treatment: psychological therapy or medication. Psychological therapy usually involves Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – this may be useful for the patient to talk about their thoughts, feelings and behaviours in relation to their obsessions and compulsions. Medication may be prescribed – these are often selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These drugs work by increasing a brain chemical known as serotonin, which is important for regulating mood and anxiety. The recommended treatment will depend on the severity of symptoms, and may take a few weeks to show any effects.
Other useful ways to help manage OCD include self-help and attending an OCD support group. Individuals may find it useful to build coping strategies, support networks and practice self-care. Support groups are often provided by charities and groups within communities; and can help provide reassurance, reduce isolation, give opportunity to socialise and provide information and
Want to know more?
NHS – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/
Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/
OCD UK – http://www.ocduk.org/
MentalHealth.org – https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/o/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd