Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a specific type of anxiety disorder in which a person struggles with obsessive thoughts and they engage in compulsions to manage the obsessive thoughts and therefore alleviate anxiety, even though these compulsions might be unsettling.
An obsession is an unwanted, intrusive, and unpleasant thought, image or urge that is impossible to ignore, causing extreme anxiety, feelings of unease and at times disgust. A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental action that the sufferer feels has to perform in order to temporarily relieve the unpliant feelings triggered by the obsessive thought. For example, someone with an obsessive fear of contamination might repeatedly wash their hands, clean surfaces, door handles, etc. OCD repeats in cycles, a typical OCD cycle can be as follows:
- An unwanted and unpleasant obsessive thought enters your mind.
- The obsessive thought triggers extreme anxiety.
- Compulsion automatically occurs to manage the anxiety triggered by the obsession.
- Acting out the compulsion brings about temporarily relief.
A new cycle begins when another obsession enters your mind and triggers extreme anxiety.
When to seek help
OCD can be highly debilitating and can significantly affect your mental health and your relationships. If you are experiencing most of the above symptoms, therapy / counselling can help you deal with OCD symptoms effectively.
Dr Maria Pournara, Chartered Psychologist, offers a range of therapies for OCD online.