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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Shaw

What is Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that is characterized by unwanted and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviours (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions can be time-consuming and interfere with a person's daily life.

a woman with ocd checking her door lock
A woman trying not to check that her door is locked before heading to work, over and over

Symptoms of OCD

The symptoms of OCD can vary from person to person, but some of the most common include:

  • Obsessions: These are unwanted and intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that repeatedly come into a person's mind. Obsessions can be about anything, but they are often about germs, cleanliness, order, or safety.

  • Compulsions are repetitive behaviours or rituals that a person feels the need to do to reduce the anxiety caused by their obsessions. Compulsions can be simple, such as washing your hands, or more complex, such as checking things repeatedly.

  • Avoidance: People with OCD may also avoid situations they associate with their obsessions. For example, someone with OCD about germs may avoid public bathrooms.

Causes of OCD

The exact cause of OCD is not fully understood, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some of the environmental factors that may contribute to OCD include:

  • Trauma: Some people with OCD have experienced a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one or a natural disaster.

  • Stress: Stress can trigger or worsen OCD symptoms.

  • Substance abuse: Alcohol and drug use can worsen OCD symptoms.

Treatment for OCD

There are several effective treatments for OCD, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that helps people to challenge their negative thoughts and behaviours.

  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): ACT is a therapy that utilises the strengths of CBT and incorporates mindfulness and modern behavioural theory into the treatment.

  • Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is a type of CBT that involves gradually exposing people to their feared objects or situations.

  • Medication: Medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can be used to treat OCD symptoms.

Living with OCD

OCD can be a challenging condition to live with, but it is important to remember that it is treatable. With the right treatment, people with OCD can live full and productive lives.

If you are struggling with OCD, there are several resources available to help you, including:

  • GPs: Your doctor can refer you to a mental health professional who can diagnose OCD and recommend treatment options.

  • Psychologists: Your psychologist can assist you in learning about OCD and how to respond to obsessions and compulsions constructively.

  • Online support groups: Many people find comfort and support in not feeling alone in their suffering.

OCD is a treatable condition, and there are several effective treatments available. If you are struggling with OCD, please reach out for help. We are happy to help you live a full and productive life.

Keywords: OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, symptoms, causes, treatment, living with OCD, resources

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