Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)


OCD involves experiencing obsessions, which are recurring and intrusive thoughts, images, or impulses, that feel out of one’s control and lead to intense and uncomfortable feelings such as fear, disgust, and guilt.

OCD also involves experiencing compulsions, which are repetitive behaviours or thoughts that a person uses to neutralise, counteract, or make their obsessions and uncomfortable feelings go away. 

Compulsions can also involve avoiding situations to prevent triggering obsessions. The following are common examples of obsessions and compulsions in OCD:

Obsessions:

  • Contamination (e.g. body fluids; germs and diseases; environmental contaminants; household chemicals; dirt)
  • Harm (e.g. being responsible for harming yourself or others)
  • Illness (e.g. concern with getting an illness not through germs, such as cancer)
  • Losing control (e.g. fear of stealing things; acting on impulse; stealing things, acting violently or recklessly)
  • Perfection (e.g. things being orderly; even, exact; losing things; making decisions)
  • Religious obsessions (e.g. concern of offending God or concern with blasphemy; concern of right/wrong; morality)
  • Superstitious (e.g. lucky or unlucky numbers, words, colours)
  • Unwanted sexual thoughts (e.g. forbidden or perverse thoughts; obsessions about homosexuality; obsessions involving children or incest; aggressive sexual behaviour).


Compulsions: 

  • Avoiding situations that might trigger obsessions
  • Checking (e.g. that you did not lose something, make a mistake, forget something, or harm someone; checking your body)
  • “Confessing” or asking for reassurance
  • Mental compulsions (e.g. mentally replying/reviewing events; counting or saying certain words under your breath; “cancelling”, blocking, or pushing away thoughts; praying excessively)
  • Ordering (e.g. arranging clothes, stationary, books a certain way)
  • Repeating (e.g. rereading, rewriting; routine activities such as standing/sitting, walking through doorways; body movements such as tapping, blinking)
  • Washing and cleaning (e.g. hands and clothes in a certain way and certain number of times; cleaning the house excessively; preventing contact with objects or chemicals).


For individuals with OCD, these obsessions and compulsions can be distressing, time-consuming and significantly get in the way of living one’s life. 

There are many variations of OCD symptoms and severity (e.g. mild symptoms which cause little impairment; compared with severe symptoms which cause considerable impact), and in some cases, the OCD symptoms may be related to another condition. 

Because OCD can be a complex disorder, a careful assessment by a professional experienced with OCD is recommended before it is diagnosed. 

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) principles for dealing with OCD with an emphasis on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is considered a “gold-standard” method in treating OCD.

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