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What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Everyone experiences worry, concern and uneasiness from time to time. We may worry about a problem at work or school, about money, health, or if our team is going to win the Stanley Cup. But if you can’t stop worrying about the same thing over and over, and it’s interfering with your life you may be experiencing obsessions as part of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Sometimes you know the thing you’re worrying and repeating on about is ridiculous and makes little sense, but it bothers you anyway. For example, someone with OCD may have a constant repetitive worry or doubt that they have left the stove on, or not locked the door, even though know otherwise. Or maybe you have to repetitively check, clean or organize things way beyond what’s reasonable, but you feel compelled to anyhow. It often annoys people around you and can cause problems for you at work, or in your relationships.
When a repetitive worry becomes intrusive in someone, we call them “obsessions.” Obsessions are uninvited thoughts that surface in the mind over and over again. People with OCD usually know their obsessions are unrealistic, but they can’t get rid of them, they can’t control them, and they can’t ignore them.

To relieve the feelings of distress and anxiety, people with OCD often try to reduce their anxiety by acting out certain rituals, or compulsive behaviours, over and over again. These rituals may include repeated washing, checking things over and over, and arranging things, and counting repetitively. Performing these actions give people only temporary relief from their anxiety. And these compulsive behaviours upsetting for the person suffering or those around them. Sometimes the person with OCD doesn’t recognize the unnecessary and unreasonable and unproductive nature of their behaviours, and instead gets angry at others for not understanding their behaviour, or not agreeing to go along with them. Friends, family and coworkers can start to feel resentful or held hostage by the person with OCD’s demands.

Who suffers from OCD?

OCD afflicts about one adult in 40, or 2-3% of people, making it twice as common as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and the fourth most common psychiatric disorder. The cause of OCD remains unknown but research is suggesting it is believed related to biologic genetics, family history and how someone’s brain is functioning and processing things. OCD can occur in people of all ages, but it generally begins before age 40. Studies show that the disorder usually begins during adolescence or early childhood. It affects men and women equally.

How to treat OCD:

OCD can begin to take up time, interfere with functioning, and become
While a complete cure for OCD is rare, functional recovery is possible and specialized treatment can bring many people long-term relief from their symptoms.

Two effective treatments for OCD have been developed: medication and a type of psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Used together, these treatments can be effective.
Psychotherapy techniques used to combat OCD symptoms involve encouraging a person to stay in contact with the idea, object or situation that forms the worry or obsession, and to not perform the compulsive ritual to ease the pressure. Depending on the intensity of the therapy, improvement may be seen within 2 or more months. Yes, the best thing to help is to purposely expose yourself to the feared thought or situation and not be allowed to engage in the compulsive safety activity that’s become an unnecessary compulsive habit. Technically therapists refer to this as “exposure and response prevention”. Different medications are also used to help reduce the frequency and intensity of the intrusive thoughts or compulsive behaviours.

With early diagnosis and the right treatment, people can avoid the suffering that comes with OCD. They also have a greater chance of avoiding depression and relationship problems that often exist with OCD. Families, friends and coworkers can benefit by understanding what’s going on in OCD. Family, friends and coworkers often get pulled in to someone’s OCD demands in an effort to try and be helpful. But before long they feel hostage to the OCD demands and can become resentful. It’s best if they don’t participate in another person’s OCD demands, even though the person with OCD may protest.

More information

For further information about OCD contact a community organization, health care provider or your family doctor to find out about support and resources available in your community.


To be advised at a later date

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