Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder composed of two elements: obsessions and compulsions.


Obsessions are best described as unwelcome thoughts, urges, feelings, doubts or images, that keep on repeating themselves in your mind.
For example, constantly thinking you haven’t locked the front door or experiencing the sudden urge to lash out and hurt someone. Obsessions such as these can be scary; they can take over your life and grow in intensity to the point where an ordinary lifestyle becomes impossible.


Compulsions are activities that you repeat over and over again because if you don’t you believe something bad will happen.
For instance, having to touch wood every time you have a nasty thought or image and becoming very agitated if you can’t find any wood. In which case you feel compelled to find a piece of paper to touch because it’s made from wood.
Another instance is repeatedly checking your front door to make sure you have locked it.
As you can see from this example, it ties in with the obsession mentioned earlier – feeling you haven’t locked the door.
Basically, the compulsion (the action of checking the front door repeatedly) is driven by the obsession (believing something bad will happen if the door isn’t locked.)
The anxiety caused by this ‘circle’ of thought and behaviour can be extremely stressful and the respite given by the compulsion is more often than not short-lived.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has the most success with the treatment of OCD. There is an article on this therapy in the last blog.



What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT is recommended for a variety of disorders, including depression, anxiety, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.

Combining cognitive therapy and behaviour therapy CBT focuses on how you think about the things going on in your life – your thoughts, images, beliefs and attitudes (your cognitive processes) – and how this impacts on the way you behave and deal with emotional problems. It then looks at how you can change any negative patterns of thinking or behaviour that may be causing you difficulties. In turn, this can change the way you feel.

Together with the therapist, you will explore what your problems are and develop a plan for tackling them. You will learn a set of principles that you can apply whenever you need to. You may find them useful long after you have left therapy.
CBT may focus on what is going on in the present rather than the past. However, the therapist may also look at how your past experiences impact on how you interpret the world now.

Being encouraged to challenge automatic negative thoughts surrounding distressing or stressful situations may help to reduce the amount of worry associated with them, and can even increase self-esteem.