What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD presents itself in many guises, and certainly goes far beyond the common perception that OCD is merely hand washing or checking light switches.
In general, OCD sufferers experience obsessions, which take the form of persistent and uncontrollable thoughts, images, impulses, worries, fears or doubts. They are often intrusive, unwanted, disturbing and significantly interfere with the ability to function on a day-to-day basis as they are incredibly difficult to ignore. People with OCD often realise that their obsessional thoughts are irrational, but they believe the only way to relieve the anxiety caused by them is to perform compulsive behaviours, often to prevent perceived harm happening to themselves or to a loved one.
Compulsions are repetitive physical behaviours and actions or mental thought rituals that are performed over and over again in an attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessional thoughts. Avoidance of places or situations to prevent triggering these obsessive thoughts is also considered to be a compulsion. Unfortunately, any relief that the compulsive behaviours provide is temporary and often reinforces the original obsession, creating a gradual worsening cycle of the OCD.
It has traditionally been considered that there are four main categories of OCD. Although there are numerous forms of OCD within each category, typically a person’s OCD will fall into one of the four main categories:
- Contamination / Mental Contamination
- Ruminations / Intrusive Thoughts
For many people with OCD there is often an overinflated sense of responsibility to prevent harm and an over-estimation about the perceived threat that an intrusive thought signifies. It is these factors that help drive the compulsive behaviours, because the person with OCD often feels ultimately responsible for trying to prevent ‘bad’ things happening. OCD can have a totally devastating impact on a person’s entire life, from education, work and career enhancement to social life and personal relationships.
What Causes OCD?
Although there is a wide range of theories, so far researchers have been unable to identify a definitive cause for a person developing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). However, it is believed that OCD is likely to be the result of a combination of neurobiological, genetic, behavioural, cognitive, or environmental factors that trigger the disorder in a specific individual at a particular point in time.
How Common is OCD?
In the UK current estimates suggest that 12 out of every 1000 people suffer with OCD. OCD affects males and females equally regardless of social or cultural background, and on average begins to affect people during late adolescence for men and during their early twenties for women. It can be so debilitating and disabling that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has ranked OCD in the top ten of the most disabling illnesses of any kind, in terms of lost earnings and diminished quality of life.
How Talking to Siobhan Can Help
Siobhan will work with you to explore and understand alternative, more helpful, ways of thinking. She will challenge your beliefs through a number of behavioural exercises. It is likely that Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) will form part of the CBT treatment programme – this involves being exposed in a very structured way, (supported by Siobhan), to whatever it is that makes you feel anxious, without then engaging in checking or other OCD behaviours.