We all have unwanted thoughts from time to time, but mostly we can chose to not pay attention to them and move on.
However, for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) unwanted negative thoughts can be constant and start to take control of their lives.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is type of anxiety disorder that affects two to three percent of the population. While that seems like a relatively small percentage, in reality, more than 500,000 Australians suffer from OCD.
People with OCD experience recurrent and persistent thoughts, images or impulses that are intrusive and unwanted (these are categorised as obsessions). They also perform repetitive and ritualistic actions that are excessive, time-consuming and distressing (these are categorised as compulsions).
Many people with OCD experience intense fear of something horrible happening to themselves or others. Due to this, they frequently seek reassurance from others and have constant doubts about their behaviour and feelings .
Prior to identification and treatment of the disorder, families can become deeply involved in the sufferer's rituals. OCD usually begins to appear in late childhood or early adolescence.
OCD is a distressing and debilitating condition, which can often be chronic and deteriorate without appropriate treatment and support. It can be compounded by depression, and other anxiety conditions including social anxiety, panic disorder and separation anxiety.
Sufferers are usually aware of the irrational and excessive nature of their obsessions and compulsions. However, they feel unable to control their obsessions or resist their compulsions.
What are the OCD symptoms?
Obsessions and compulsions are distressing, exhausting, take up a lot of time, and can significantly interfere with the person's family and social relationships, daily routines, education or working life.
Common obsessions include: fear or contamination from germs, dirt, for example; fears of harm to self or others; intrusive sexual thoughts or images; concerns with symmetry, illness or religious issues; an intense, irrational fear of everyday objects and situations (phobia).
Common compulsions include: excessive washing; cleaning; checking; hoarding; touching; counting; and repeating routine activities and actions.
Diagnosis of OCD
Obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms can feel embarrassing or shameful for the person suffering. For this reason, OCD can go undiagnosed for much too long, during which time compulsive behaviour can become ingrained and damaging. This may mean adults become housebound or children cannot attend school.
The first step towards help is seeing a doctor or psychologist who can recognise the symptoms.
Health professionals need to distinguish between other similar mental health issues such as depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders. Beginning the assessment process is a positive step towards recovery.
What are the treatments for OCD?
OCD can be successfully treated, enabling you to live happier, more fulfilling lives. Treatment will help you manage your intrusive obsessions and compulsions. It may not cure your OCD (which can be lifelong) but it can help you control symptoms and stop them ruling your life. The best results may come from a combination of treatments.
Some tools for helping to manage OCD are:
- Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT): By working with your psychologist, you can learn new and more positive ways to cope with symptoms. You are gently encouraged to resist doing your compulsive behaviours and find other means of reducing your anxiety. Over time, this causes the symptoms to reduce. This is the most common form of treatment.
- Exercise: Gentle to moderate exercise can increase your fitness and mental health.
- Relaxation techniques: Becoming aware of your breathing and actively trying to slow it down when it's required.
- Medication: Antidepressants are used for the treatment of OCD in Australia and can be very effective. They can assist the brain restore a normal chemical balance.
- Community support: OCD can be an isolating disorder. People with OCD and their families can benefit from support groups, where people share coping strategies and develop a support network. Family therapy may also be helpful. Community support and connection can play a vital role in rebuilding lives.
If you think you might have OCD, please contact our friendly receptionists on 1300830552 and they will be able to find you the right Psychologist for you. We have specialist Psychologists in every capital city around Australia, so we most likely have one near you.