Frequently reduced to a joke or having high cleaning standards, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a serious issue that left unchecked can wreak havoc on all areas of your life.
OCD isn’t about one exact issue, such as being clean or terrified of germs. It’s when you have a lack of control over unwanted negative thoughts and feel compelled to act on them. It can dominate your life and result in you prioritising your obsessions and compulsions above everything else.
What is OCD?
OCD is comprised of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted thoughts about a specific issue and the consequence of that is often compulsions, which is an action designed to placate the obsession. For example, someone diagnosed with OCD may worry about contamination and in response may repeatedly and excessively wash their hands.
What are the symptoms of obsessions?
An obsession is an intrusive thought, anxiety, worry or image that you keep experiencing. While anything could become an obsession, there are some common themes which include:
- Safety: A fear of harm or death and feeling responsible for keeping other people safe
- Remaining appropriate: Anxiety about accidentally acting inappropriately, even though you have no intention of it
- Hygiene: A worry about becoming contaminated through germs, dirt and other people
- Organisation: The need for control often through fixing unbalanced or unsymmetrical objects
What are the symptoms of compulsions?
Compulsions are the actions used to address obsessions. Despite the connection between the two, the action isn’t always obviously related to the thought. For example, you may avoid stepping on the cracks of a pavement to stop a loved one dying. They person engaging in this will know it isn’t rational, but feel compelled to do it nonetheless.
A compulsion that is part of OCD is characterised by its frequent and extreme nature, which often impacts the person’s ability to live a full life. Some common types of compulsions involve:
- Safety: checking the door is locked
- Remaining appropriate: repeatedly seeking external reassurance
- Hygiene: washing hands or object
- Organisation: arranging objects
The impact of OCD
Managing OCD requires intense effort, can be anxiety-inducing and is often time-consuming. Understandably, many people dealing with the disorder experience unwanted consequences including:
Embarrassment: Most people who have OCD understand that the compulsion won’t actually ‘fix’ their worry, but feel forced to act on it nonetheless. This can lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment, which unhelpfully makes accessing support even more difficult and can lead to isolation.
Stress: The burden of OCD is a lot to cope with and understandably a lot of people become stressed and anxious from the daily toll it takes.
Strained relationships: You may feel ashamed of your OCD and withdraw from relationships to avoid humiliation. Equally, you may prioritise managing your OCD over your loved ones or simply not have enough time leftover to have quality time together.
Limits daily life: Performing compulsions can require a significant time commitment, which means there is less time for work, hobbies, relaxation and all the other parts that make up a full and fulfilling life.
How can therapy help manage OCD?
Getting help for OCD is critical, as if it’s left untreated it can last forever. Fortunately, with the right help, people suffering from OCD can bring their symptoms completely under control. Talking therapies are recommended by the NHS and NICE and fortunately, most people who get the right treatment report a major improvement in their symptoms.
Working with a therapist is a big first step in taking back control of your life. First, you will work together to uncover what issues have trigged your OCD, before looking at the thoughts that perpetuate the cycle of it. This self-knowledge will help you identify present day triggers and from there you can work with your therapist to create new, healthy coping strategies.
If you’re interested in exploring how therapy could help you take control of your OCD, book in for a free phone consultation with one of our team by calling 01892 249032. Alternatively, click on the green ‘book a consultation’ button to automatically select a time that suits you.
OCD Action – Information, forums and local groups for people affected by OCD
OCD UK – A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD
Triumph Over Phobia – Self-help groups and support for those with OCD and phobias