Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
What is OCD?
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. Characterised by a sudden and uncontrollable cycle of obsessions and compulsions, an OCD diagnosis is applicable when this cycle becomes so extreme that it consumes a large amount of time, creates intense distress, or impacts an individual’s ability to engage in their everyday routines and responsibilities.
Types of OCD
As with other mental health disorders, OCD can take many different forms. It can result in an unending combination of behavioural patterns and compulsions, but for the majority of cases, OCD will fall into one of five main categories:
- Contamination or mental contamination
- Symmetry and ordering
- Ruminations or intrusive thoughts
Common Obsessions and Compulsions in OCD
Each individual’s experience with OCD can be highly unique. However, there are several common obsessions and compulsions that may point to the presence of diagnosable OCD. These include:
- Mental compulsions – including a review of events in the hopes of preventing harm to self or others
- Counting during tasks with the need to end on a ‘safe’ or ‘right’ number
- ‘Cancelling’ or ‘undoing’ behaviours
- Ordering and rearranging things compulsively and repetitively
- Seeking reassurance from those around you
- Avoiding situations that may trigger an obsession
- Excessive hand washing, showering, bathing, grooming, or toileting routines
- Excessive cleaning of household items
- Extreme behaviours to prevent or remove contact with real or perceived contaminants
- Checking that you didn’t or won’t harm others or yourself, or that nothing bad has happened
- Checking for mistakes repetitively
- An obsession with checking a physical condition or certain part of the body
- Repeating routine activities or body movements
- Repeating activities in ‘multiples’
How OCD affects daily life
OCD can have an extremely debilitating impact on everyday life. As obsessive compulsive behaviours can take up a large amount of the individual’s time, their ability to engage with friends and family can be negatively impacted, and they may risk their ability to meet responsibilities in professional and personal settings.
Individuals suffering with OCD may experience disruption due to avoidant behaviours, going out of their way to avoid triggering obsessive fears. This can reduce their ability to perform everyday activities, including potential challenges with eating, shopping or socialising. For some people, this can mean they become housebound in an attempt to avoid potential triggers.
OCD can also bring with it a high degree of shame. Great embarrassment about symptoms can lead to increasing efforts to hide them, creating isolation from family and friends, or bringing distress to close family members or friends as they may struggle to avoid involvement in the impacted individual’s coping mechanisms.
Causes of OCD
There isn’t a single definitive cause of OCD. Research is continuing into why OCD occurs, with several theories pointing to its likely root issue, including:
- Learned behaviours developing into compulsions to the point where their habitual repetition is associated with anxiety relief
- Genetic and hereditary factors
- Brain abnormalities that may be chemical, structural or functional
- Distorted or extreme beliefs that contribute to symptoms associated with OCD
- Stressful or traumatic life events
- Hormonal changes
- Specific personality traits
For many individuals suffering from OCD, a range of factors have contributed to its development.
Symptoms of OCD
If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, familiarising yourself with these symptoms can help you to seek the professional support you need to overcome this mental health disorder.
Obsessive symptoms of OCD are often exaggerated versions of standard worries and concerns. These may include:
- A fear of contamination from germs, dirt, or other physical substances
- Fear of harm from illness, accidents or death, either for the individual or for those they care about
- Intrusive thoughts and images
- Concerns about symmetry and orderliness
- Concerns about illnesses, religious issues or morality issues
- Concerns about memory and recall
The compulsive symptoms of OCD may quickly become apparent in relation to an underlying obsession. These can either be behavioural or mental, including:
- Excessive and uncontrollable hand washing or personal grooming
- Excessive cleaning of household items
- Repetitive checking of locks, electrical and gas appliances
- Repeating routine activities
- Adhering to rigid, non-negotiable rules and patterns around specifics such as object placements, clothes, food and more
- Touching, tapping or moving in a certain way or for a certain number of times
- Constantly seeking reassurance
Criteria for diagnosis of OCD
While obsessive or compulsive behaviours may be experienced by most people at some point in life, this can inaccurately lead to a belief that everyone has a small degree of OCD. In reality, an OCD diagnosis is only made when the cycle of obsessions and compulsions has reached such an extreme point that it’s consuming more than an hour a day, causing excessive distress, or disrupting the individual’s ability to function throughout each day.
An official diagnosis can only be achieved with trained therapists, who will carry out a thorough evaluation to reach an accurate diagnosis of OCD.
How is OCD treated?
Effective obsessive compulsive disorder treatments will often draw on a range of therapeutic practices, bringing care for every element of the individual’s physical, mental and emotional health.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy is one of the most effective treatments for OCD. A type of CBT called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) has a strong evidence base supporting its use in OCD therapies, which guides the individual through the practice of confronting the thoughts and situations that provoke obsessions, before building new responses that reduce the risk of compulsive behaviours.
Brain stimulation therapies
A range of brain stimulation therapies may also be effective for OCD therapy, involving using electrical or magnetic impulses to stimulate specific areas of the brain. This form of therapy is often reserved for severe cases of OCD that haven’t responded to other forms of treatment, as they can be more invasive and have potential side effects that must be professionally managed.
How we can help
You’ll find safe, supportive care at Hope In Health. We offer comprehensive treatment to individuals requiring OCD help, with a team of expert mental health professionals who work together to develop a highly-personalised treatment plan.
No matter the intensity of your OCD experience, you’ll find strategic support, integrated care and the highest quality of clinical practice in your Hope In Health treatment program.