Obsessive Compulsive disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder which causes the individual to experience both obsessions and compulsions. Most people will experience some form of obsession e.g. worrying about having left an appliance on or whether you have locked the front door and compulsions e.g. not walking under ladders. However, in most cases these symptoms won’t interfere with daily life.
When symptoms being to interfere with your day-to-day life, relationships, work or physical health then it is time to seek professional help.
Some people may experience obsessions where they experience disturbing intrusive thoughts or images, but show no signs of compulsions. In most cases, however, people will experience compulsions but will be unaware of them as they may be internal. Mental compulsions can include; checking how you feel, checking bodily sensations, checking how you feel about what you are thinking, repeating phrases or numbers in your head or checking if you still have a thought.
NICE guidelines (2005) suggest that when deciding on the most appropriate treatment history, severity and the level of impact on the individual’s life should be taken into account. Guidelines suggest that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and medication are appropriate treatments.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – CBT is a therapy which examines the relationship between thoughts and behaviours which create and maintain the cycle of obsessions and compulsions. CBT works for OCD by challenging the cognitions (thoughts or obsessions) that you are having and rationalising these into more realistic thoughts, therefore reducing your level of anxiety. It will also usually involve behaviour experiments, where you may be asked to resist completing compulsive actions and monitor your levels of anxiety in the same way you would in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) – ERP is a type of CBT which involves you confronting your obsessions and resisting compulsions. The practitioner will support you in putting yourself into situations where you will feel anxious. You will then be encouraged to resist the urge to complete your compulsion ad tolerate the levels of anxiety. Overtime, the levels of anxiety experienced in these situations will reduce through the process of habituation.
Medication – a psychiatrist or GP will be able to prescribe medication depending on the symptoms you are experiencing at the time, the severity of the symptoms, past experiences, physical health and how likely you are to consistently take your medication. Medications available for the treatment of OCD include; antidepressants, tranquillisers and beta-blockers.