Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

What is it?

OCD is when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are intrusive and unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that trigger highly distressing feelings. This often causes a person to attempt to lessen their distress through compulsive behaviours. It’s often suggested that someone is “a little OCD”, however a clinical diagnosis of OCD means a person’s cycle of obsessions and compulsions are extreme and impacting the quality of their life including excessive amounts of time engaging in compulsions which interferes with functioning at school or work, social activities, relationships, and normal routines. This often causes significant distress.

What are the signs and symptoms?

An obsession develops when a thought, image or impulse repeatedly comes to mind, often disrupting other thoughts and mental focus. These thoughts tend to be distressing in nature, and can lead to an anxiety response. An individual with OCD usually feels an overwhelming need to reduce their anxiety resulting from these obsessions, and therefore engages in compensatory compulsive mental acts or behaviour(s). 

compulsion is a behaviour that a person feels compelled to act upon to engage in, to reduce or relieve the distress their obsessive thoughts are causing them. Often people with OCD believe that the consequences for not acting on their thoughts will result in negative outcome(s), which is usually disproportionate to reality; we call this “Magical Thinking”.

How do we treat OCD?

The most successful psychological treatment for OCD is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Response Prevention (ERP). CBT identifies, challenges, and helps sufferers’ overcome their dysfunctional thoughts, behaviours and overwhelming emotions, by changing their thought processes, allowing them to think and act differently in relevant situations.

ERP is when individuals are gradually and repeatedly exposed to their underlying anxieties or fears until they diminish or significantly reduce, with the support and guidance of a trained healthcare professional. This allows them to deal with their challenging thoughts as they learn other coping strategies to reduce their anxiety, instead of avoiding the situation, or engaging in their compulsive actions.

At Anxiety House we have trained clinicians who are experienced in working with OCD. If you are concerned that you, a friend, or relative may be experiencing OCD, it is strongly recommended to seek advice from a healthcare professional immediately. Alternatively, please visit The OCD Clinic for additional information on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and how we can support you or your loved one.

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Note: Our clinic is not a crisis service so please call Lifeline (13 11 14) or the Suicide Call-back Service (1300 659 467) for support if you are feeling suicidal. In an emergency, please dial 000.

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