Obsessive compulsive disorder

What is it?

This describes a condition where people suffer from repetitive, intrusive and usually unpleasant thoughts, often in association with overwhelming feelings of being compelled to take certain actions

About a million people in the UK - one in 50 people - have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) at some point in their lives. OCD affects men and women equally and usually starts in the teens or early twenties. It tends to fluctuate over time, but people often don't seek help for many years.

The cause is unknown but there are some interesting associations:

  • OCD can occasionally run in the family
  • Stressful life events bring on OCD in about one in three cases
  • Taking more responsibility through life changes such as puberty, the birth of a child or a new job
  • An imbalance of a brain chemical called serotonin (also known as 5HT) may develop if a person has OCD for more than a short time
  • Someone with OCD is a neat, meticulous, methodical person but in an extreme way
  • A person with high standards of morality and responsibility may feel particularly bad when they have unpleasant thoughts. So, they start to watch out for these thoughts which makes them more likely to happen.

How do we know it's happening?

  • A person can get awful thoughts, even when they try to keep them out of their mind
  • A person may have to touch or count things or repeat the same action, like washing, over and over
  • Recurring thoughts, known as 'obsessions', make them anxious and these can be unpleasant words or phrases, pictures in their mind or doubts
  • Some things individuals do over and over again - 'compulsions' - to help them feel less anxious. They may try to correct or neutralise the thoughts by counting, saying a special word, or doing a particular ritual, over and over again.

What we offer

We work closely with GPs and can provide expert diagnostic advice and a range of specialist treatments. These are most usually psychological therapies sometimes backed up with medication.

Key contacts

GPs will put a person in touch with people who can help. There are some self-help organisations which offer guidance and support.

Contact

GPs will put a person in touch with people who can help. There are some self-help organisations which offer guidance and support.

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