Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a manifestation of anxiety, and is often marked by a cycle of compulsive or repetitive behaviours to help cope with intrusive or unwelcome thoughts. Therapists, particularly specialists in Exposure Response Prevention, can help people manage these symptoms.
OCD describes a cyclical pattern of intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours that affects a person’s quality of life and ability to live normally.
OCD is a mental health problem that people can spend years learning to manage. Keeping your environment clean or tidy is not the same as OCD, and people with OCD might feel offended if people confuse the two.
If keeping your environment clean or tidy feels compulsive, is an ever-present preoccupation, affects your quality of life or stops you living normally (for example, working or spending time with loved ones), then cleaning might be a sign of OCD.
Intrusive thoughts, which form one part of the OCD cycle, are absolutely normal. What makes them part of an OCD presentation is an urge that follows, or a reaction to them that feels compulsive or out of control.
OCD can develop at any time in life, but tends to appear in puberty or adolescence. OCD is a chronic illness, but it can be managed and treated successfully, even if the first type of treatment does not work as well as hoped.
Current estimates suggest 1.2% of the population is affected by OCD.
OCD might be triggered by stress or anxiety but doesn’t have a cause, per se. OCD might develop during a stressful period but people with OCD also describe it appearing ‘out of the blue’ or ‘out of nowhere’.
Even if people are not sure why they have OCD or where it came from, they still have as much right to treatment as someone whose OCD follows a stressful experience. Therapists do not need to know where OCD comes from or why to treat it.
Many therapists specialise in treating OCD, and psychotherapy or talking therapies are a recommended treatment.
Exposure therapy helps people learn to cope with things that make them anxious on a very gradual, well-managed process. It is particularly well-suited to treating OCD.
Taking medication to manage anxiety can help a person manage OCD symptoms and also supports therapeutic work. SSRIs are one example of a common medical treatment for OCD symptoms.
David Adam's memoir of his experience of OCD became a Sunday Times bestseller after its publication.
A national OCD charity with good campaigns and resources on recovery.
A charity that provides information about OCD, and aims to improve rates of diagnosis in the UK.