What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
OCD is a condition where an individual has obsessive thoughts accompanied by compulsive behaviour(s).
In OCD, an obsessive thought is a thought, image or urge that is unwanted, unpleasant and causes anxiety. A compulsive behaviour is something someone feels they have to do to prevent an obsession coming to fruition. This could be a physical or a mental act.
OCD affects individuals differently, and the OCD may range from mild, taking up perhaps an hour a day, or severe, controlling someone’s whole life.
Most people with OCD show a repeated pattern of thoughts and behaviour which involve four steps:
Obsessions– their mind is overwhelmed by an obsessive thought or fear
Anxiety– the obsession makes them feel very uncomfortable and distressed
Compulsions– they adopt a pattern of compulsive behaviour to reduce the anxiety and distress
Temporary relief– the compulsive behaviour brings short-term relief from anxiety but the obsession and anxiety soon return, causing the cycle to begin again
Symptoms of OCD
An OCD diagnosis requires the presence of obsessions and compulsions, which are time-consuming (at least 1 hour a day) and cause distress or impairment in social, work or other important areas of functioning.
The DSM-5 describes the symptoms of Obsessions & Compulsions as:
Recurrent and persistent thought, urges and images that are experienced as intrusive and unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress and,
The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action (e.g. by performing a compulsion).
Repetitive behaviours (e.g. hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (e.g. praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the individual feels driven to in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly, and
The behaviours or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing anxiety or distress, or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviours or mental acts are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralise or prevent, or are clearly excessive