What is OCD?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a form of anxiety disorder that can profoundly affect the lives of those suffering from it. Usually, people who have this disorder can identify symptoms that fall within two categories; obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions could be defined as persistent, repetitive intrusive thoughts and/or urges while compulsions are the behaviours or actions that an individual may feel the need to engage in; these can often be repetitive and even ritualistic in their nature. It is usual for people with this disorder to experience both obsessions and compulsions, but it is also possible for them to be experienced separately.
Signs and Symptoms of OCD
Some of the symptoms of OCD can be very similar to other anxiety conditions, for example, racing heart, tension, and sleep problems. Often OCD can be a paralyzing illness that leaves individuals feeling trapped and isolated because they may feel their home environment is the only environment they can control.
Some of the more common OCD obsessive thoughts (obsessions) might include:
- Obsessive and repetitive thoughts about the implications if you don’t do something the ‘right’ way. You may be left worrying that something terrible or devastating will happen to you or the people you love;
- Holding highly superstitious beliefs about certain patterns, numbers or words, or being very focused on symmetry. For example, you may worry about walking over three drains or paving slab joins;
- Intrusive thoughts about having a serious medical condition that might continue or reemerge despite having reassurance from medical professionals;
- Having repetitive thoughts about things you may feel are socially unacceptable such as sexual thoughts or words;
- Intrusive and repetitive violent and aggressive thoughts;
- Rigid and extreme thoughts about morality, ethics or religious beliefs.
Some of the typical behaviours (compulsive behaviours) that OCD sufferers may believe could ‘neutralise’ these thoughts and prevent bad things happening might include:
- Repetitive washing or bathing, including repetitive hand washing a certain number of times;
- Counting to a certain number without having particular thoughts during counting;
- Touching things in a certain pattern or order for a specific number of times;
- Checking the plug sockets are all turned off several times or testing fire alarms and doors locks repeatedly;
- Avoiding places that may be contaminated, either with germs, chemicals or the presence of a feared person or thing.
- Repeating a thought a certain number of times.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for OCD
Similarly to other anxiety conditions, there are a number of therapies that have a strong evidence base for working with OCD. At Serendipity Psychology, our therapists are experienced in being able to offer structured treatment packages that are well evidenced as the more effective therapies to promote recovery. In most instances, the treatment recommendations will be Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for OCD (CBT) and EMDR.
There is an internationally recognised CBT protocol that is known to be a highly effective treatment for OCD called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). This is a structured and planned therapy and involves supporting the individual to gradually expose themselves to their fears, to help them build a higher level of anxiety tolerance, and to find other, more helpful and less restrictive coping strategies as an alternative to the compulsive behaviours that have previously been used as a coping strategy. The overall aim is to find a range of effective ways to challenge their unhelpful thoughts that drive problematic behaviours.
For some people, OCD is a response to significant past trauma and because of this it can also be important to explore additional therapeutic work in order to reduce some of the symptoms of OCD. A type of therapy called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) has been evidenced to be effective in responding to trauma and OCD and is another alternative or useful partner used in conjunction with CBT as a treatment for OCD.
Our therapists at Serendipity Psychology are all trained in delivering these interventions and have experience in working with OCD. If you would like some help to overcome this debilitating condition and get treatment for OCD, please contact us to discuss it further.