Help with Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour

Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) typically include recurring obsessive thoughts and repetitive compulsions in response to the obsession.

OCD is quite common in our society. About 1 in every 50 people develop OCD at some point in their lives, equally amongst men and women. People of all ages, including children, can develop OCD. The causes of OCD are unclear but it is believed that a number of factors contribute to the onset of OCD symptoms.

Obsessions are unpleasant thoughts, images, or urges that keep coming into a person’s mind. Obsessions will often feel more intrusive and repetitive than normal life worries. Common obsessions include fears about hygiene and cleanliness, fears about doors being locked or electrical appliances being left on or a persistent need for exactness in how things are ordered or arranged. These are just a few examples. There are many others.

Compulsions are thoughts or actions that a person feels must be done or repeated. Usually the compulsive act is in response to an obsession. A compulsion is a way of trying to deal with the distress or anxiety caused by an obsession.

The nature of obsessive compulsive behaviour

The words ‘compulsive’ and ‘obsessive’ are used frequently to describe certain behaviours (like gambling, drinking and exercising). However, these behaviours can be pleasurable. The compulsions in OCD are never pleasurable – they are always experienced as an unpleasant demand or burden. Not all people who demonstrate compulsive behaviour have OCD.

OCD affects people in different ways. The severity of OCD can range from mildly inconvenient to causing severe distress.
A person with OCD knows that the obsessions and compulsions are excessive or unreasonable. However, they find it difficult or impossible to resist them.

In addition, OCD can have a self-perpetuating effect: the more a person struggles with anxious thoughts the more profound the anxiety may become. As anxiety increases, attempts to alleviate the anxiety through compulsive actions can increase. This can create a frustrating cycle of behaviour for people suffering from OCD. Equally, there is often much shame and secrecy around OCD and many people with OCD do not tell their doctor or anyone else about their symptoms.

Counselling can help those with OCD

OCD and its symptoms are treatable. Two common ways of alleviating OCD are cognitive behavioural therapy and through the use of medication, but other types of therapy can also be effective. In some cases of OCD, therapy and medication may be used together to alleviate OCD symptoms.

A GP or an experienced psychotherapist can discuss options for treatment for those suffering from OCD. Please get in touch if you would like further information.

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