Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
It is common for us all to wash our hands, keep our house tidy and clean, and close the door behind us as we leave a room. But if you find yourself with an overwhelming need to complete these and other similar tasks repeatedly then you may be affected by an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. (Frequently referred to as OCD and formerly known as Obsessive Neurosis).
There are many ways in which an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can develop to the point you feel anxious and low in mood. Perhaps you feel that something bad is going to happen unless you count to a certain number. You may seek reassurance from your friends, family or partner multiple times during the day to check that simple things you are doing are ‘OK’. Some of these behaviours do not impact on your life too greatly although cause you some distress. However, if the need to count to a number, several times and it increasingly starts to interfere with you being able to get to work or focus on your work; or the constant need for reassurance about things that seem insignificant to others harm your relationship with others; then you may have an OCD. If this stops you doing things, it is restricting you. If any of these things sound like you - you may benefit from our therapies.
What are obsessive-compulsive disorders?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the experience of obsessions, leading to compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted repeated and intrusive thoughts, urges, or worries that cause distress. The presence of these obsessions leads to compulsions, which are repeated actions or activities carried out with the aim of reducing the anxiety caused by the obsessions.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD) can have an extreme effect on your life. Without treatment, you can be left feeling alone, distressed and overpowered by your obsessions and compulsions. It may be that the frequency and repetitive nature of your OCD interferes with you carrying out simple tasks.
There are similarities for people who experience Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and people who are compelled to carry out rituals. They are not however the same. Many of us have rituals, for instance how we carry out our morning personal care routines may be described as a ritual which we do automatically in the same order every day. Or a ritual may be religious and something you carry out as part of worship. For instance, prayer practices can be a ritual. For someone with OCD a ritual may develop as a result of a perception or fear or something bad happening. It may start as a simple routine such as checking your front door is locked before you go to bed and develop into having to check the door because you are worried about an intruder getting in. This may develop into you obsessing about the possibility of an intruder and lead you to check the front door over and over again, maybe a ritual develops where you check the door is locked, rap three times on the bannister before going up the stairs and you count the steps as you climb them. If this gets to the point that you then feel compelled to go back and recheck and carry out this ritual over and over again. We want to help you regain your confidence and quality of life. You can speak to us without fear of judgement and with comfort in the knowledge that our therapies have helped hundreds of people.
Compulsions are repetitive actions or activities that you do to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsessions. Often these behaviours can be time-consuming and obstruct the functionality of day-to-day life. These compulsions can be physical actions, mental rituals or involve a specific number. Sometimes people rationally know that it does not make ‘sense’ to carry out the compulsion but feel scared to ignore it. Some examples of compulsions are:
- Rituals: arranging objects in a specific way, frequently washing your hands, body or surroundings, and touching things in a particular order or at a certain time.
- Checking: ensuring repeatedly that all doors and windows are locked, checking your body for signs of response to thoughts or for contamination.
- Correcting thoughts: for example, counting to a certain number, repeating a word, name or phrase, drawing out a certain shape, or replacing an intrusive thought with a different image.
- Reassurance: for example, repetitively asking people if everything is alright.
Causes of OCD: how do compulsions occur?
There is no one exact cause of OCD, but the below factors are suggested to contribute to the development of OCD:
- A lack of the brain chemical Serotonin
- Genetic predisposition shown in family history of anxiety disorders
- Brain activation abnormalities
- Experience of trauma, including abuse, neglect and bullying
- Recent key or stressful life event
- Compulsions can be learnt from parents or carers
- High personal standards
- Neat and meticulous personality
- Anxious temperament
- Perceived high level of responsibility
Causes of OCD: how do obsessions occur?
Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, images, urges or worries that repeatedly appear in the mind. They are intrusive and not controlled and interfere with your thoughts. These obsessions can cause fear, discomfort, anxiety, and sometimes self-loathing . People sometimes feel that they cannot share their obsessions as they feel like they are wrong to experience. It is important to remember that obsessions do not reflect your personality. Some examples of obsessions are:
- Fears of initiating or failing to stop harm: for example, worrying you have harmed someone by not being careful enough.
- Intrusive thoughts, images and impulses: violent thoughts or images, religious or blasphemous thoughts, relationship intrusive thoughts that often appear as doubts about a relationship, sexually intrusive thoughts or images.
- Fears of contamination: physical contamination (e.g. by germs) or mental con-tamination (e.g. ‘internal uncleanliness').
- Associated with order or symmetry: for example you might have a fear that something bad will happen if everything isn't 'right'.
People may experience more than one of these types of obsession.