OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is an anxiety disorder, characterised by recurrent, persistent thoughts (‘obsessions’), and/or the presence of repetitive behaviours that one feels compelled to carry out (‘compulsions’).
People with OCD will often relate to experiencing intensely negative intrusive thoughts or images, combined with feelings of doubt or danger, or feeling excessively responsible for causing or preventing harm to either themselves or othersBecause these thoughts are often perceived as warnings, attempts are usually made to avoid or remove the threat, through repeating an action or behaviour, as a way to lessen the anxiety they are experiencing.
These obsessional thoughts might start out as normal, reasonable worries, but then develop to become more frequent and excessive, to the point where it becomes debilitating and chronically interferes with the individual’s day to day life.
Prevalence & Stigma
OCD is a chronic condition that is estimated to affect as many as 1 in 40 people. But one of the greatest challenges that OCD sufferers face, is the stigma surrounding it. Despite the prevalence of OCD, there remains to be a lack of understanding around “what it means to have OCD”, which means that those who are affected by it, are often misunderstood.All too often, OCD has mistakenly been used as a catch-all term to describe individuals who are perceived to be fussy or particular in some way. During the last decade or so, public awareness about OCD seems to have grown to some extent, and the term ‘OCD’ is often used and talked about more often. But unfortunately, it’s also being used in reference to certain kinds of behaviours that are not OCD. So whilst more people seem to talk about the personality quirks of “being a bit OCD”, many may not actually have the disorder, or are using the term without fully understanding the severity of the condition and its impact.OCD Facts:
- People experiencing OCD can have obsessions and compulsions:
- An obsession is a repeated unwelcome thought or image that is hard to ignore.
- A compulsion can be a repetitive behaviour or act that the person feels compelled to carry out, in an attempt to ease or relieve the anxiety.
- There are different types of OCD, but some of the common ones are:
- Contamination – which involves a strong urge to clean or wash because of an intense fear of the consequences of contamination.
- Checking – which involves an excessive need to check things to prevent damage, risk or harm.
- Intrusive thoughts or Obsessions – which involves the experience of unwanted repetitive thoughts that cause severe distress.
- Symmetry and Orderliness – which may involve a fixation on symmetry, colour, number or order, and involve a strong need to arrange and order things precisely.
- Hoarding – which involves excessive emotional attachments to objects, and the collection of items or the inability to throw out items that are judged to be useless, worn out, limited in value by others.
- A mix of different factors can cause OCD, including genetics, brain structure, external environment, history of trauma.
- OCD is a chronic condition, but it is treatable.
- The usual treatment options for OCD are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and medication.
OCD is an illness that comes with it high levels of anxiety and emotional distress, but the more we take time to understand it, the better we’ll be at fighting the stigma behind it. This will help support those who struggle with it in seeking the help they need.
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