What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
NHS Choices suggests that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is “a mental health condition where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive activity”. It is an anxiety based disorder which can be so debilitating that people with OCD can lose jobs, suffer from relationship breakdowns and have a significantly poorer quality of life.
According to the NHS, it’s estimated around 12 in every 1,000 people in the UK are affected by the condition, which equates to almost 750,000 people and problems can begin at any age.
Obsessions are thoughts, images or urges that occur again and again. You might experience them as nonsensical and intrusive at first, but gradually they may become distressing, making you feel anxious and guilty. You might find that they are very difficult to ignore and that whatever you try it seems impossible to distract yourself.
Compulsions are things that you do repeatedly to reduce or avoid psychological distress. It is possible that you feel driven to perform these actions.
This short film from Mind shows people talking about what it’s like to live with OCD.
People can have a very wide range of obsessions. One of the most common obsessions relates to contamination – an obsession that objects or other people are ‘contaminated’ by anything from germs and dirt to disease and radiation. If you have this obsession then the accompanying compulsion is likely to be a drive to decontaminate yourself – for example, by excessive hand washing or cleaning.
Another common obsession is worrying that you might hurt someone or cause an accident or some kind of misfortune because of something you have done, or forgotten to do. For example, you might be convinced that you haven’t locked your doors or that you have left the iron on, or that some disaster is going to happen unless you stop it somehow. These could compel you to check locks over and over again, or keep checking the iron or count or keep touching objects to prevent the feared disaster.
Other obsessions can be even more disturbing. Some can be focused on violence, sex or murder.
Who can help?
If you have OCD you might be ashamed or embarrassed and this might prevent you from seeking help. It’s important to remember that OCD is a long-term health condition, it is not your fault and you have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
It is important that you get some help because your symptoms might get worse and it is unlikely that they will get better on their own.
Consider starting with a visit to your GP, who is likely to refer you to a specialist therapist for assessment and treatment. You could access some of the resources to the right of the page, in addition to seeking active help. The Tuke Centre’s therapists have a great deal of experience in helping people with OCD and they will take your concerns seriously, doing what they can to help you overcome your obsessions and compulsions. Have a look at our Therapies section to explore the wide range of therapies we have available. It is possible that we will suggest you undergo therapy with a CBT therapist. CBT is the NICE guidelines recommended approach to helping people with OCD.
The links on this page point you towards a range of information, advice, guidance and self-help resources. The list is not exhaustive, but it should give you a few starting points if you feel you have OCD or obsessions or compulsions that are starting to disrupt your everyday life.