What is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterised by intrusive, distressing thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviours or rituals (compulsions) performed in an attempt to alleviate anxiety or distress.

OCD affects people of all ages and can significantly interfere with daily life.

How can OCD affect you?

OCD can impact various aspects of life:

  • Emotional Well-being: OCD can cause significant anxiety, fear, and distress due to intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. It can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and low self-esteem.
  • Social Functioning: OCD can interfere with relationships, work, and social activities. Individuals may avoid certain situations or activities due to fears or rituals, leading to social withdrawal and isolation.
  • Physical Health: The stress and anxiety associated with OCD can manifest as physical symptoms such as fatigue, muscle tension, headaches, and digestive problems.

What are the symptoms of OCD?

  • Obsessions: Persistent, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that cause anxiety or distress. Common obsessions include fears of contamination, harm to oneself or others, and a need for symmetry or perfection.
  • Compulsions: Repetitive behaviours or mental rituals performed in response to obsessions to reduce anxiety or prevent feared outcomes. Common compulsions include excessive hand washing, checking, counting, and arranging objects.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding situations, places, or activities that trigger obsessions or provoke anxiety.
  • Distress or Impairment: Significant distress or impairment in daily functioning due to obsessions and compulsions, including interference with work, school, or relationships.

How can you manage OCD?

  • Therapy: Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), particularly exposure and response prevention (ERP), is the most effective treatment for OCD. Therapy helps individuals identify and challenge irrational thoughts, gradually face fears and obsessions, and learn healthy coping strategies.
  • Medication: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other antidepressant medications may be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms of OCD, particularly when combined with therapy.
  • Self-Help Strategies: Techniques such as mindfulness, relaxation exercises, and journaling can help individuals manage anxiety and intrusive thoughts associated with OCD.
  • Support Groups: Participating in support groups or group therapy sessions with others who have OCD can provide understanding, encouragement, and practical advice for managing symptoms.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding alcohol and drugs can support overall well-being and help reduce anxiety associated with OCD.

Where to get help

Speak to your GP:If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, seeking help from a qualified mental health professional is essential. With proper treatment and support, individuals with OCD can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Your GP will be able to refer you to specialist support.

Charities and Organisations: Charities and Organisations such as; OCD-UK and Mind can offer specialist help and support.