Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the name given to a condition in which people experience repetitive and upsetting thoughts and/or behaviours. OCD is a combination of Obsessions and Compulsions.

Obsessions come in the form of intrusive, unwanted involuntary thoughts, images or impulses. The main features of obsessions are that they are automatic, frequent, or distressing and difficult to control or get rid of. Common obsessions include:

  • Fears of getting a disease, e.g. cancer, AIDS
  • Fears about dirt, germs and contamination
  • Fear of acting out violently or aggressive thoughts/impulses
  • Fears of harming others, especially a loved one
  • Inordinate concern with order, arrangement or symmetry
  • Fears that things are not safe, especially household appliances

Compulsions are repetitive, purposeful behaviours or rituals performed in a response to an obsession or according to certain rules. In some cases, people have compulsions without having obsessional thoughts, but very often, they occur together. Carrying out a compulsion reduces the person’s anxiety, however, the anxiety relief is usually short lived, and makes the urge to perform the compulsion again stronger each time. Common compulsions include:

  • Excessive washing or cleaning, e.g. hand washing
  • Checking
  • Repetitive actions, e.g. touching, counting
  • Arranging and ordering, e.g. objects in a room
  • Hoarding or saving things

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be tremendously disruptive to sufferers and their families. It is estimated that approximately 1% of the population suffer from OCD at some point in their lives. OCD can start at any time from preschool age to adulthood, with the typical age of onset being during adolescence or early childhood.

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