What is OCD and how does it Affect Everyday Life?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is one of the most well-known mental health conditions – mostly thanks to the sensualisation of the condition in various popular films, television series and even books. Monica from Friends, Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory and even Winnie-the-Pooh all suffer from a variety of OCD symptoms – but like with most mental health conditions everyone’s experience of the condition is different.
Around one in 50 people in the UK will suffer with OCD for a period of time at least once in their lives, the condition usually begins throughout the teens and early twenties and will get better or worse over time, depending on the person and the situation in hand – often it takes sufferers many years to seek help for the condition.
What is OCD?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a condition which causes sufferers to experience obsessive thoughts and engage in compulsive activities in order to control their anxiety. The condition is most commonly associated with cleanliness, counting and routines, with many people taking part in repetitive compulsions such as touching things a certain number of times or cleaning multiple times per day in order to prevent or calm obsessive or negative thoughts.
What are the Most Common Symptoms?
Those suffering with OCD usually fall into one of five categories;
- Washers – hand washing is one of the most common forms of OCD, the sufferer is afraid of contamination or becoming unclean and often find themselves cleaning their hands repeatedly. For some people this can escalate to using harmful products such as bleach or rubbing alcohol in an effort to remain clean.
- Hoarders – whilst many people associate OCD with cleanliness, hoarding also falls into the obsessive-compulsive category. Many hoarders struggle to part with belongings they no longer need as they believe it may cause something bad to happen to them, many people who hoard often also suffer with other mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD or ADHD.
- Counters/Arrangers – being obsessed with symmetry, organisation, colours or having superstitions around numbers and arrangements is also very common for those suffering with OCD. Sufferers may use rulers and other measuring tools to rearrange their homes, or be unable to take certain routes or buy certain things due to the numbers or patterns involved in the road names or prices of products.
- Checkers – ever thought you might have left the oven on? Many people with OCD constantly fear they have left the oven on, the straighteners plugged in or the front door unlocked – but rather than it being a passing thought like it is for most people, those suffering with OCD will check these things, often repeatedly, before leaving the house or starting a particular activity.
- Doubters/Sinners – perfection is often impossible to seek, however some people suffering with OCD believe they will be punished or something terrible will happen if they don’t strive to seek it. Often the person will seek perfection in every area of their lives from their work life to their home life, how they look and even sometimes what they eat.
What Causes OCD?
Whilst there is a no definite answer in what causes OCD there are a number of factors that could come into play, including:
- Abnormal Serotonin Levels – some experts believe that those who suffer with OCD over a long period of time could have an imbalance of serotonin levels.
- Family History – like with many mental health conditions, OCD can sometimes be inherited and run in the family.
- Recent stress – stressful life events such as a new job, the birth of a baby or the death of a loved one can be the catalyst for those suffering with OCD.
People who are already very clean, neat or meticulous may find themselves more likely to suffer with OCD than someone who is usually messy and unorganised.
What types of Therapy can Help?
Many different types of therapy can be affective in alleviating the symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder – however research suggests the most successful form is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT was developed to focus on resolving a specific problem over a fixed period of time – you will be required to complete different tasks as ‘homework’ and will work with a therapist to change your thought processes around your obsessive or compulsive actions.
For those who have tried CBT and didn’t find it helped them, there are a number of different therapies that have been proved to help for a number of different people and it could be a matter of trying a few to see what works for you. Some people may also find that therapy alone isn’t enough to alleviate all their symptoms and find a combination of therapy and medication work better for them.
Don’t wait to seek help for your OCD, getting your life back and living without the condition can make a huge impact to your overall wellbeing. If you think you might have OCD or have recently been diagnosed, therapy could be a great way to get back on track. There are a number of different therapies that you might consider, including CBT – the most effective type of therapy for the condition – which can be easily accessed through our new online therapy service. Our new interactive platform has been expertly developed to deliver professional therapy in an accessible and convenient way, allowing you to enjoy all the benefits of therapy from the comfort of your own home or office – without disrupting your schedule.