The ‘O’ in OCD

Hey, thank you for visiting my blog. Just a quick note, my blog is primarily based on personal views and experience, sometimes referring to research and some background information, with the aim of helping anyone who may be suffering, or know of anyone suffering from a mental health illness. I would welcome any advice and feedback on my blogs, or your personal thoughts on the topic.

I forever hear people saying ‘I’m so OCD about that’, but I don’t think that the majority of these people know much about the condition. My aim in this blog is to inform people about the condition.

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and consists of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses that repetitively enter an individual’s mind, leading to feelings of anxiety and distress. Compulsions are repetitive behaviours, actions, or mental thoughts that are performed ritually (over and over again) to relieve the feelings of anxiety and distress.

I think most people are vaguely familiar with the compulsions part of OCD, but not so familiar with the obsessions (O) part. The obsessions are the unwanted thoughts that evoke the negative feelings, leading to the ritualistic behaviours seen in people with OCD. So, someone who is constantly cleaning, may be doing so out of fear of being contaminated by germs. Therefore, cleaning is the only way the person can relieve their feelings of anxiety and distress.

The severity of OCD can vary on an individual basis, with some people constantly having to complete these ritualistic behaviours to feel calm. People with OCD usually understand very well that their ritualistic behaviours are irrational, but are unable to prevent themselves carrying out these rituals, because of the obsessions causing them fear and anxiety. People with OCD often feel responsible to perform the rituals, simply because they feel doing so will prevent harm coming to themselves or their loved ones.

Statistics show that around 12 in every 1000 people are affected by OCD. Many of these individuals also have a comorbidity of depression. The condition undoubtedly causes a significant level of stress for the individual, and their close ones too. However, there are treatments available that can help individuals cope better with the condition. The two main types of treatments available are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and medication. The type of treatment an individual receives will depend on the severity of their condition, with some people recovering from CBT alone; whilst others require both medication (to control their anxiety), and CBT once they are comfortable enough to move.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a form of talking therapy that is found to be most effective for OCD, and has no side effects. The therapy aims to look at how an individual thinks, and how this affects their behaviour. The sessions involve Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), which encourages the individual to be exposed to their fear, and attempt to overcome the fear slowly, without the need for the ritualistic behaviours. The aim of the therapy is to allow the individual to slowly overcome the ritualistic behaviours through gradual exposure therapy. CBT is usually found to be a successful form of treatment, without any side effects. However, sometimes an individual’s OCD can be so severe, that a form of medication may be needed in order to relieve their levels of anxiety.

The usual medication provided for individuals with OCD is Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), which are a form of antidepressant that help to increase the levels of the neurotransmitter (chemical) called serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is believed to have a positive influence on mood, emotion and sleep. SSRIs are usually used to reduce and control anxiety levels in OCD sufferers so that they are then able to go on to taking part in CBT. There are many different types, and the most suitable form for an individual is usually decided by the individual and their GP. However, there are side effects to medication, which would be discussed by your prescribing GP.

The reason behind this blog is simply to inform people about OCD, what it involves, and therapies available. I hope that this blog has been informative, and that people understand the condition better. Help can be found from your GP; and further information about the condition can be found through these well-informed websites listed below:

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Obsessive-compulsive-disorder/Pages/Introduction.aspx

http://ocduk.org/

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