OCD- The Facts

OCD- The Facts

By Ishma Alvi.

The acronym ‘OCD’ has become commonplace enough that people, often casually, refer to themselves as having it. People attribute any desire for order or control within themselves or others to having traits of ‘OCD’. But, despite its common use, or perhaps because of it, the actual features of OCD have become blurred.

OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental health condition that is defined by two features; an overwhelming and almost unshakeable focus on a certain concept thought or act i.e. an obsession, and an equally overwhelming and almost unshakeable desire to perform a behaviour in association with that obsession.

An obsession can be experienced as repetitive and unwanted thoughts, while compulsions can be experienced as excessive and irrational urges to perform a certain behaviour.

As with many mental health conditions, particularly those linked to anxiety, the sufferer is likely to be conscious of the lack of reason or logic behind both the obsession and the compulsion, but continue to feel helpless to control either.

Typically, there is a ‘looping’ effect or cycle in that the obsessive thought is likely to link to the compulsive action, with the idea being that the action will relieve the stress of the thought. However, this relief is only short-lived and the thought is likely to intrude again, in a short span of time, creating a cycle it can be hard to break.

The ‘themes’ around which the obsessions and compulsions can vary and can include, among many others:

  • Cleanliness and hygiene, where the obsessive thought will be around levels of cleanliness of a space and the compulsive action will be cleaning
  • Order, where the obsessive thought will be around creating a certain order in a space or of objects and the compulsive action will be arranging and rearranging objects
  • Fear around impulse control, where the obsessive thought will be around the possibility of losing impulse control (such as hurting someone else or yourself) and the compulsion will involve seeking reassurance or setting up and enacting rituals or patterns believed to manage self-control

Often, due to the self-fulfilling nature of the relationship between the obsessive thought and compulsive action, it can be hard for a sufferer to break the cycle on their own. Therefore, it’s important to know when to seek help.

Some signs that a professional may need to be consulted include:

  • The obsessions and compulsions getting in the way of your job, relationships and self-care
  • The obsessions and compulsions causing distress
  • The obsessions and compulsions feeling overwhelming and unmanageable

OCD, though experienced as distressing is treatable and can resolve, with the right support and treatment.

This Blog was written by Ishma Alvi. To learn more about Ishma’s experience, click here.

To book an appointment to see her, or one of the other Psychologists at Vida click here.

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