Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (commonly referred to as OCD) is a mental health condition in which a person has obsessive thoughts and suffers from compulsive behaviour. OCD comes in many forms and it can range from mild to severe, and can progress over time.

Unfortunately television has given people a warped view of OCD and many don’t realise how crippling the disorder can be. The obsessive part of the disorder concerns the repeated obsession over unpleasant thoughts, imagery or feelings.  

The compulsion part is also different for anyone who is afflicted by OCD. It can be the obsession to wash hands repeatedly, or the obsession to check door locks every few minutes. Or it can be something like repeatedly stacking or sorting things at home.

As we’ve mentioned there is no standard for OCD, it effects everyone differently, if you have a mild case of OCD you may only spend a few minutes engaged in obsessive compulsive activity. However some people are effected so severely that their OCD has literally taken over their lives.

What Causes OCD?

No one knows the exact cause of OCD, although medical research has suggested some possible causes. Research has pointed towards the possibility that OCD could run in families, and may also be linked to inherited genes that affect brain development.

Other studies have shown that people who suffer from OCD have an imbalance of serotonin in their brains. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that is used to transmit information from brain cell to brain cell.

OCD can start at any age and effects men, women and children. The disorder may start early on but can become more severe and damaging over time. It is estimated that 12 in 1000 people in the UK alone are affected by OCD in some way.

OCD Treatments

There are a variety of treatment methods available for those who suffer from OCD. While they do aim to rid people of their compulsions this might not always happen. However, they are effective in reducing the impact that OCD can have on a person’s life.

Cognitive behaviour therapy is the most common treatment for OCD sufferers. The therapy encourages the sufferer to face their compulsions head on and let their compulsions run active without correcting them.  

Medication can also be used in conjunction with cognitive behaviour therapy if the case of OCD is severe. The medication given is known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). There are various kinds of these inhibitors that can be prescribed to people.

SSRI’s are a type of antidepressants and they also work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. As we discussed earlier an imbalance in serotonin is believed to be one of the possible causes for OCD.

Signs of OCD

OCD effects people differently and because of this there are many possible signs and symptoms. OCD will usually cause people to exhibit strange patterns of behaviour, these can vary but will have a close relation to the compulsions and obsessions the person is suffering from.

For example if a person is suffering from obsessions about dirt and cleanliness then they might wash their hands repeatedly. Other warning signs to look out for include the onset of depression and strong feelings of anxiety. In some cases people suffering from OCD can also start to develop eating disorders.

If you think yourself, a friend or family member has started to show signs of OCD then you should contact your GP for advice and support as soon as possible. One of the biggest mistakes many people who suffer from OCD make, is avoiding the problem until it becomes too much to cope with anymore.

Julie Farrar