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The Surrey Hypnotherapy Clinic
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OCD - Best Help, Advice, Therapy & Treatment...

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by unwanted thoughts or behaviors that seem impossible to stop or control. OCD is an anxiety disorder where there are uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts together with repetitive, ritualized behaviors you feel compelled to perform. If you have OCD, you probably recognize that your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are irrational—but even so, you feel unable to resist them and break free.

 

Like a needle getting stuck on an old record, OCD causes the brain to get stuck on a particular thought or urge.

 

For example, you might suffer from uncontrollable compulsions, such as checking the stove 20 times to make sure it’s really turned off, or washing your hands over and over until they’re scrubbed raw. Or you might be troubled by repeating ideas, such as a recurring worry that you forgot to turn off the oven or that you might hurt someone.

 

Almost everyone has unpleasant or unwanted thoughts at some point, such as thinking they may have forgotten to lock the door of the house, or even sudden unwelcome violent or offensive mental images. 

But if you have a persistent, unpleasant thought that dominates your thinking to the extent it interrupts other thoughts, you might have an obsession.

 

You may have recurring obsessive thoughts of a violent or sexual nature that you find repulsive or frightening and give you a fear of deliberately harming yourself or others – for example, fear you may attack someone else, such as your children. But they are just thoughts and having them doesn't mean you'll act on them.

Symptoms of OCD

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive activity.

  • Obsessions are involuntary thoughts, images, or impulses that occur over and over again in your mind. You don’t want to have these ideas, but you can’t stop them. Unfortunately, these obsessive thoughts are often disturbing and distracting.
  • Compulsions are behaviors or rituals that you feel driven to act out again and again. Usually, compulsions are performed in an attempt to make obsessions go away.

For example, if you’re afraid of contamination, you might develop elaborate cleaning rituals. Or someone with a fear of their house being burgled may feel they need to check all the windows and doors are locked several times before they can leave the house.

 

However, the relief obtained by carrying out the compulsion never lasts. In fact, the obsessive thoughts usually come back stronger. And the compulsive rituals and behaviors often end up causing anxiety themselves as they become more demanding and time-consuming. This is the vicious cycle of OCD.


OCD symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some people with OCD may spend an hour or so a day engaged in obsessive-compulsive thinking and behaviour, but for others the condition can completely dominate their life.

Obsessive thoughts

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) affects people differently, but usually causes a particular pattern of thoughts and behaviours.


This pattern has four main steps:

  • Obsession – where an unwanted, intrusive and often distressing thought, image or urge repeatedly enters your mind.
  • Anxiety – the obsession provokes a feeling of intense anxiety or distress.
  • Compulsion – repetitive behaviours or mental acts that you feel driven to perform as a result of the anxiety and distress caused by the obsession.
  • Temporary relief – the compulsive behaviour temporarily relieves the anxiety, but the obsession and anxiety soon returns, causing the cycle to begin again.

It is possible to just have obsessive thoughts or just have compulsions, but most people with OCD will experience both.

Compulsive behaviour

Compulsions arise as a way of trying to reduce or prevent anxiety caused by the obsessive thought, although in reality this behaviour is either excessive or not realistically connected.


For example, a person who fears contamination with germs may wash their hands repeatedly, or someone with a fear of harming their family may have the urge to repeat an action multiple times to "neutralise" the thought.


Most people with OCD realise that such compulsive behaviour is irrational and makes no logical sense, but they can't stop acting on it and feel they need to do it "just in case" - and performing the action make them 'feel 'better' in some way.

 

Most people with obsessive-compulsive disorder fall into one of the following categories:

  • Washers are afraid of contamination. They usually have cleaning or hand-washing compulsions and a fear of contamination by disease, infection or an unpleasant substance.
  • Checkers fear harming theselves or others by mistake – for example, fear that you may set the house on fire by leaving the cooker on leads to repeatedly checking things (oven turned off, door locked, etc.) that may cause harm or danger.
  • Doubters and sinners are afraid that if everything isn’t perfect or done just right something terrible will happen, or they will be punished.
  • Counters and arrangers are obsessed with order and symmetry. They may have superstitions about certain numbers, colors, or arrangements.– for example, you may feel the need to ensure all the labels on the tins in your cupboard face the same way.
  • Hoarders fear that something bad will happen if they throw anything away. They compulsively hoard things that they don’t need or use.

Other common types of compulsive behaviour in people with OCD include:

  • asking for reassurance
  • repeating words in their head
  • thinking "neutralising" thoughts to counter the obsessive thoughts
  • avoiding places and situations that could trigger obsessive thoughts

Not all compulsive behaviours will be obvious to other people.

Related problems

 Some people with OCD may also have or develop other mental health problems, including:

  • depression – a condition that typically causes lasting feelings of sadness and hopelessness, or a loss of interest in the things you used to enjoy
  • eating disorders (e.g. anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa) – conditions characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that cause you to change your eating habits and behaviour
  • generalised anxiety disorder – a condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event
  • a hoarding disorder – a condition that involves excessively acquiring items and not being able to throw them away, resulting in unmanageable amounts of clutter

People with OCD and severe depression may also have suicidal feelings. If you ever have suicidal thoughts or feelings you should always, where possible, consult your GP and/or the Samaritans.

What causes OCD?

It's not clear exactly what causes OCD. A number of different factors may play a role in the condition. These include:

  • Family history – you're more likely to develop OCD if a family member has it, possibly because OCD may be linked to certain inherited genes that affect the brain's development.
  • Seratonin differences in the brain – some people with OCD have areas of unusually high activity in their brain or low levels of a chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical the brain uses to transmit information from one brain cell to another.
  • Brain differences - brain imaging studies have shown the brains of some people with OCD can be different from the brains of people who do not have the condition. For example, there may be increased activity in certain areas of the brain, particularly those that deal with strong emotions and the responses to them.
  • Life events – OCD may be more common in people who've experienced bullying, abuse or neglect and it sometimes starts after an important life event, such as childbirth or a bereavement.
  • Personality – neat, meticulous, methodical people with high personal standards may be more likely to develop OCD, as may those who are generally quite anxious or have a very strong sense of responsibility for themselves and others.

Who is affected?

It's estimated around 12 in every 1,000 people in the UK are affected by the condition. This equates to almost 750,000 people.


OCD affects men, women and children. The condition typically first starts to significantly interfere with a person's life during early adulthood, although problems can develop at any age.

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Articles about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Select here for some additional background Articles about OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

Find out more about the anxiety disorders

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is one of six major anxiety disorders that have been identified, each with their own distinct symptom profile. You can read more about the anxiety disorders here:

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