Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic (long-term) mental health condition that is usually associated with obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour.

Obsessions and compulsions

An obsession is an unwanted, unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters a person’s mind and results in anxiety. A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that a person feels compelled to perform to try to avert or undo the effect of the obsession.

Unlike the normal use of the word ‘obsession’, which may describe something that an individual enjoys, the obsession in OCD is unpleasant and frightening. The person feels the need to carry out their compulsion in order to prevent their obsession becoming true. For example, someone who is obsessively scared that they will catch a disease may feel compelled to have a shower every time they use a toilet.

How common is OCD?

OCD is one of the most common mental health conditions. It is estimated that up to 3 in 100 adults and up to 5 in 100 children and teenagers have OCD.

OCD usually starts in early adult life, with men tending to report earlier symptoms than women. However, OCD symptoms can begin at any time, including childhood.

The symptoms of OCD can range from mild to severe. For example, some people with OCD will spend about an hour a day engaged in obsessive compulsive thinking and behaviour. For others, the condition can completely take over their life.

The causes of OCD are unknown, although there are several theories. For more information, see OCD - causes

Outlook

If you have OCD, seeking help is the most important thing you can do. Left untreated, the symptoms of OCD may not improve. In some cases they will get worse. Without treatment, nearly half of people with OCD still have symptoms 30 years later.

With treatment, the outlook for OCD is good. Some people will achieve a complete cure. Even if a complete cure is not achievable, treatment can reduce the severity of your symptoms and help you to achieve a good quality of life.

A form of psychotherapy, known as cognitive behavioural therapy, which includes graded exposure and response prevention, is a proven treatment with a high rate of success in OCD. This may also be combined with medication, such as antidepressants.

About 80% of people with OCD will respond to initial treatment.

 

Information from NHS Choices

Mental Health Foundation
Mental Health Foundation
The Royal College Of Psychiatrists