Understanding OCD

“Sorry, I’m a bit OCD”; “It must be my OCD”. How often do we hear someone say this in conversation to explain their behaviour or concern at making sure something is accurate or in its right place? It’s a throwaway phrase for many – but for some people, OCD is something which can dominate their whole life and is definitely no laughing matter.

OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to give it its full name, affects approximately 12 in every 1000 people in the UK to varying degrees. It is a long term mental health condition which can manifest itself in many ways but in basic terms, it is an anxiety disorder.

It is thought that OCD may develop because of a genetic tendency or that it can be triggered as a reaction to stress or to a negative event or traumatic life experience – even in childhood – and can continue (on and off) for years. People with OCD often have rituals and believe that by undertaking activities in a certain way, or in a certain order, by obsessively cleaning their home, or by repeatedly washing their hands for example, or by having or not having certain intrusive thoughts, they in some way can influence and control what happens in their life and prevent negative events taking place. By doing these things, they feel that they are able to protect the well-being of themselves and of those they care about. Very often OCD can become worse in situations of heightened stress and anxiety, or when the sufferer feels that circumstances are out of their control. The rituals in their mind, give them back that control.

Some people may have a mild case of OCD whereby they are able to manage it without intervention and it does not interfere unduly with their day to day life. Indeed, even those closest to them may have no idea that they have the condition. Others however can suffer greatly with the effects of OCD and it can completely dominate their life and their relationships with others. In severe cases, it can prevent people from leaving their homes and make them unable to enter public places where they are not able to fully control their environment. Doing so could cause them to suffer from severe anxiety and even panic attacks. For some, these restrictions can also contribute to the development of depression which may also require treatment.

Treatment for those with mild to moderate OCD usually involves talking therapies, such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), where the patient is gradually exposed to those situations that cause their anxiety, and are encouraged resist carrying out the compulsive behaviours they usually associate with them.  In severe cases however, it may be necessary for medication in the form of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to be prescribed in addition to the therapy to control their compulsive behaviours.

In his video, consultant psychiatrist Dr Adrian Winbow explains the symptoms, causes and treatment for OCD further. Both Dr Winbow and his colleague, Prof Anthony Hale, have many years’ experience in treating OCD in adults. If you would like help to overcome the effects of OCD, please contact us to make an appointment with one of the consultant psychiatrists at Private Psychiatry.


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