Understanding OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

What is OCD?

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a common but debilitating mental health condition consisting of two distinct elements, obsessions and compulsions. It affects both men and women and usually starts in adolescence.

The obsession manifests as unwanted thoughts and images, which seem to fill your head no matter how hard you try not to think about them. These thoughts can cause great distress as they can be violent and disturbing. They can take up a large part of your time making it difficult to focus on other things, like work family and relationships.

The compulsions are brought on by these obsessive thoughts, such as a need to repeatedly perform a task in order to try and control or subdue your feelings of anxiety and distress. The compulsions can take different forms including constant checking, handwashing, or tidying. It’s not just wanting things to be clean or neat and tidy, it’s the fear that by not doing things in a certain way it could cause actual harm.

OCD can be associated with other mental health conditions such as

· Depression

· Hoarding

· Eating disorders

· General anxiety disorder (GAD)

· Perinatal OCD

Sometimes you may feel able to manage your OCD on a daily basis. In times of stress or ill-health however, you might find it harder to cope with your thoughts and compulsions. It could start to have a major impact on your relationships, work and social life.


It is not known what causes obsessive compulsive disorder, but the following are believed to contribute in some part.

· Traumatic brain injury

· Neglect or childhood abuse

· A family history of OCD

· Low serotonin levels

· Personality traits like neatness, anxiety or being very methodical or meticulous

Physical Symptoms

· Nauseous caused by feeling anxious

· Constant handwashing that could result in dry skin or irritation

· Difficulties concentrating

· Feelings of exhaustion

Psychological Symptoms

· Feelings of anxiety

· Uneasiness

· Embarrassment

· Feeling ashamed

· Loneliness

· Thoughts of harming yourself or others

· Repeating words in your head

Behavioural Changes

· Hiding things you think you might hurt yourself or others with

· Avoiding situations or places that might trigger your OCD

· Avoiding socialising

· Finger tapping

Self Help

Often trivialised by people who don’t understand the condition and think it’s just someone being overly neat and tidy or afraid of germs, so inclined to wash their hands often. You might even hear them joke that they could do with being a bit OCD themselves, which does little to help sufferers. Don’t be afraid to speak about how you feel not everyone will react this way and help is at hand.

There are support groups available, details of which you can find online that can provide advice on managing your OCD. However it is unlikely that your condition will improve without help, so you should contact your doctor to see what medication or psychological help they are able to provide.

Professional Help

Medication can help but it often takes several weeks to work and whilst it will help with your symptoms it won’t provide you with the underlying cause. Therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Exposure and response prevention (ERP), are extremely successful. Counselling, psychotherapy and clinical hypnotherapy can also prove helpful. Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK). For more information click the above link.