Many of us use the term OCD to describe an unusually frequent habit or the need to keep things clean. But obsessive compulsive disorder can have serious consequences for a sufferers life and is not something to be taken lightly.
What is OCD?
Obsessive compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder that causes a particular urge or thought to become an obsession, and the activity that results, a compulsion.
These thoughts are often triggered by anxiety, which can be anything from worrying about germs to unwarranted concerns about health. The compulsive activities that arise from the trigger anxiety often become extremely repetitive - locking and unlocking doors a certain number of times, repeatedly checking that a door is locked, frequent hand washing or continually arranging objects and items.
It is thought around one to two per cent truly suffer from OCD, and it can occur in people of all ages and backgrounds, though it commonly begins in early adulthood.
OCD affects each individual differently, and the symptoms range from the mild to the very severe. In some cases, the condition completely takes over the sufferer's life.
It is usually characterised by a set pattern of thought and behaviour - obsession, where the sufferer experiences a constant fear or worry; anxiety, the feelings caused by the obsession; compulsion, a repetitive of behaviour is adopted to reduce the anxiety, and relief, albeit only temporary.
Due to the nature of the condition, some sufferers also end up developing depression.
Treatment of OCD
Treating OCD is challenging, and what treatment you receive will depend on how the disorder is affecting your quality of life and ability to function.
Behavioural therapy is often prescribed as part of a treatment programme for OCD. Cognitive behavioural therapy, for instance, usually revolves around exposure and response prevention (ERP). This identifies the tasks and situations that cause the anxiety. The sufferer is then asked to confront their fears, starting with an easy level that gives the patient the best chance of coping with the situation, and gradually moves on to more challenging tasks.
Where CBT fails, you may be prescribed medication, much like an antidepressant, that increases the levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that transmits information from one brain cell to another.
Charities devoted to the condition may also help, with national charities OCD Action and OCD-UK providing information and support groups in your local area.
Though OCD sufferers are often reluctant to see their GP about the condition, feeling embarrassed by their symptoms, your doctor can help by referring you for therapy, or pointing you in the direction of free help and support. Don't let it take over your life.
Do you suffer from OCD? How do you cope with the disorder? Leave your comments below...