Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

We all have little habits and rituals that we engage in throughout our daily lives, some we might rather do without like biting our nails. We might ‘touch wood’ or cross our fingers for luck. For some people these habits and worries spiral out of control to such an extent that ignoring them feels impossible, particularly if we believe that denying the ritual will bring about catastrophic repercussions; perhaps even the death of a loved one.

Sufferers of OCD repeatedly engage in strange and self destructive behaviours that often bare no relation to the catastrophe that they fear; they may check and recheck doors and windows, taps and locks that they know are switched off again and again before being able to leave the house. They may have to tap or touch certain items a number of times as they pass. They may wash their hands until they are red raw or refuse to touch items for fear of germs.

Obsessive thoughts can be of any nature though they often fit with one of the following categories:

• dirt and contamination
• need for order or symmetry
• hoarding or saving
• sexual
• repetitive
• nonsensical doubts
• religious
• superstitious
• aggressive

The Obsession is the unwanted persistent intrusive thought that refuses to go away.

The Compulsion is the behaviour you employ to allay your anxiety. However relief is fleeting and very soon the cycle begins again. The condition will worsen during periods of stress and can deteriorate rapidly.

A simple four step cognitive (CBT) approach can bring welcome relief from these agonising symptoms and psychotherapy can address the deeper underlying causes of the anxiety.