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Obessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a troubling and confusing mental health disorder in which a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.  


It affects men, women and children and can develop at any age. Some people develop the condition early, often around puberty, but it typically develops during early adulthood.


OCD can be distressing and significantly interfere with your life, but treatment can help you keep it under control.



OCD behaviour can develop slowly and appear in a variety of forms. Lots of people associate OCD with repeated hand-washing, but there’s more to it than that.


Scientists are still unsure why some people develop OCD, but what is certain is it’s nobody’s fault. The good news is that it is a highly treatable disorder, but the sooner it is diagnosed and treated the more chance there is of a better recovery.


Symptoms of OCD

If you have OCD, you'll usually experience frequent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.  You might experience some of the following:


  • a desire to have their room tidied in a particular way, with everything perfectly aligned

  • repetitive hand-washing or prolonged, repeated showering/bathing

  • worrying excessively about their handwriting and neatness of their schoolwork

  • worrying about harm coming to loved ones, such as parents, siblings, friends or pets

  • going to extreme lengths to protect the family home by repeatedly checking doors or locks

  • feeling the need to count while they perform certain tasks, sometimes in multiples of a particular number

  • refusing to let go of or discard seemingly useless or old items

  • worrying excessively about becoming ill or catching specific diseases.

  • An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters your mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease.


Getting help for OCD

People with OCD are often reluctant to seek help because they feel ashamed or embarrassed.  But there's nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about.  It's a health condition like any other and it doesn't mean you're "mad" and it's not your fault you have it.


There are two main ways to get help:


  • visit your doctor who will ask about your symptoms and can refer you to a local psychological therapy service if necessary

  • refer yourself directly to a psychologist.


If you think a friend or family member may have OCD, try talking to them about your concerns and suggest they seek help.

OCD is unlikely to get better without proper treatment and support.


Treatments for OCD

There are some effective treatments for OCD that can help reduce the impact the condition has on your life.

The main treatments are:

  • psychological therapy – usually a special type of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that helps you face your fears and obsessive thoughts without "putting them right" with compulsions

  • medication – usually a type of antidepressant medication called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that can help by altering the balance of chemicals in your brain


CBT will usually have an effect quite quickly. It can take several months before you notice the effects of treatment with SSRIs, but most people will eventually benefit.


If these treatments don't help, you may be offered an alternative SSRI or given a combination of an SSRI and CBT. Some people may be referred to a specialist mental health service for further treatment.


Causes of OCD

It's not clear exactly what causes OCD. A number of different factors may play a role in the condition.


These include:

  • family history – you're more likely to develop OCD if a family member has it, possibly because of your genes

  • differences in the brain – some people with OCD have areas of unusually high activity in their brain or low levels of a chemical called serotonin

  • life events – OCD may be more common in people who've experienced bullying, abuse or neglect and it sometimes starts after an important life event, such as childbirth or a bereavement

  • personality – neat, meticulous, methodical people with high personal standards may be more likely to develop OCD, as may those who are generally quite anxious or have a very strong sense of responsibility for themselves and others.

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