What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
We all have habits or routines that make us feel better, but that wouldn’t cause us distress if we couldn’t do them. For example, you might make the bed every morning before heading to school or work. It makes you feel better, tidies your space, and sets your day off well. Without that routine, however, you could still continue on with your day. When you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), these habits and routines can profoundly impact your life. They may inhibit your from fully functioning on a daily basis. People with OCD often feel that their impulses and behaviours are not within their control, and are somehow not a natural part of their nature.
Obsessions are unwanted preoccupation with specific urges, images, or thoughts. Compulsions are actions taken to reduce anxiety caused by obsessions. OCD is a common mental illness, affecting approximately 1 in 40 people. It typically comes on gradually in a person’s life, in adolescence or early adulthood, and affects both men and women equally. While no single cause of OCD is known, it is believed that OCD stems from a combination of family history, genetics, and life experiences.
The most common obsessions include:
- Worries of contamination
- Repeated doubts
- A need to keep things in a certain order
- Aggressive or horrific impulses
- Sexual imagery
Because OCD relates to specific obsessions and compulsions, there is no one set of symptoms that can describe OCD in its entirety. However, the key features of OCD include recurrent thoughts, images, impulses or behaviours that:
- Cause anxiety or distress
- The person recognizes as excessive or unreasonable
- Is not a result of drug use or any other medical condition
- Results in significant distress or impairment of normal functions
OCD may disrupt your ability to concentrate on tasks, prevent you from participating in various activities of daily living, and disrupt your relationships and cause interpersonal conflicts with others. Treatment for OCD may include:
- Assessment: Because recurrent or intrusive thoughts, impulses, images, or behaviours may be symptoms of other disorders, it is important to receive a comprehensive assessment to determine your specific treatment needs.
- Psychotherapy: Dalton Associates can help you find a mental health professional who can help you towards resolving your OCD. Typical treatment options include Cognitive Therapy (CT) and Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP). CT helps to modify one’s beliefs about themselves and the world, which in turn, changes the obsessive behaviour. ERP involves either direct or imagined exposure to objects or situations that trigger anxiety, and learning around resisting compulsive behaviours.
- Medication: Your family physician may prescribe medications to assist in your recovery from OCD.
- Centre for Addictions and Mental Health. (2012). What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?
- Canadian Mental Health Association. (2016). Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
- American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM- IV. (4th ed). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
- Kaplan, Harold I., & Sadock, Benjamin J. (1998). Kaplan and Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry Behavioral Sciences/ Clinical Psychiatry, Eighth Edition, pp. 609-617. New York: Williams & Wilkins.