Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a serious anxiety-
The illness affects as many as 12 in every 1000 people (1.2% of the population) from young children to adults, regardless of gender or social or cultural background. In fact, it can be so debilitating and disabling that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has actually ranked OCD in the top ten of the most disabling illnesses of any kind, in terms of lost earnings and diminished quality of life.
Based on current estimates for the UK population, there are potentially around 741,504 people living with OCD at any one time. But it is worth noting that a disproportionately high number, 50% of all these cases, will fall into the severe category, with less than a quarter being classed as mild cases.
OCD presents itself in many guises, and certainly goes far beyond the common perception
that OCD is merely hand washing or checking light switches. In general, OCD sufferers
experience obsessions which take the form of persistent and uncontrollable thoughts,
images, impulses, worries, fears or doubts. They are often intrusive, unwanted, disturbing,
significantly interfere with the ability to function on a day-
Compulsions are repetitive physical behaviours and actions or mental thought rituals that are performed over and over again in an attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessional thoughts. Avoidance of places or situations to prevent triggering these obsessive thoughts is also considered to be a compulsion. But unfortunately, any relief that the compulsive behaviours provide is only temporary and short lived, and often reinforces the original obsession, creating a gradual worsening cycle of the OCD.
It has traditionally been considered that there are four main categories of OCD. Although there are numerous forms of the illness within each category, typically a person’s OCD will fall into one of the four main categories – Checking, Contamination, Hoarding or Ruminations/Intrusive Thoughts.
For many people with OCD there is often an over inflated sense of responsibility
to prevent harm and an over-
To some degree OCD-
The key difference that segregates little quirks, often referred to by people as being ‘a bit OCD’, from the actual disorder is when the distressing and unwanted experience of obsessions and compulsions impacts to a significant level upon a person’s everyday functioning – this represents a principal component in the clinical diagnosis of Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder.
OCD affects males and females equally, and on average begins to affect people during late adolescence for men and during their early twenties for women.
Sufferers often go undiagnosed for many years, partly because of a lack of understanding of the condition by the individual and amongst health professionals, and partly because of the intense feelings of embarrassment, guilt and sometimes even shame associated with what is often called the ‘secret illness’. This often leads to delays in diagnosis of the illness and delays in treatment, with a person often waiting an average of 10–15 years between symptoms developing and seeking treatment.
To sufferers and non-
For someone with OCD, their logical mind always remains functioning, even if their OCD mind is spiraling out of control. Most people with OCD know that their thoughts and behaviour are irrational and senseless, but feel completely incapable of stopping them, often from fear that not completing a particular behaviour will cause harm to a loved one. No matter how small the risk, the person with OCD will always feel responsible for preventing that bad event from happening.
OCD can also be a chameleon. For some people the OCD symptoms will remain unchanged, but for others it is not unusual that over time there may be changes to the type of OCD that becomes bothersome. Equally, it is not unusual for symptoms to wax and wane over time if untreated and become a little like a roller coaster, with the severity increasing during times of stress, perhaps at work, university or within relationships, for example.
Doubt is another characteristic of the OCD sufferer – the French once called OCD ‘la folie de doute’ which translates to ‘the doubting disease’. Doubt is one of the emotions that feeds most obsessive and compulsive behaviour and it is this inability to live with doubt and uncertainty that drives OCD. People with OCD prefer black or white answers for their OCD, rather than being able to accept shades of grey.
Receiving appropriate treatment, the highest quality standards of care and support and sticking to the treatment plan is the key to long term recovery.
OCD is indeed a chronic, but also a very treatable medical condition. Most people can learn to stop performing their compulsive rituals and to decrease the intensity of their obsessional thoughts through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of talking therapy that focuses on the problems a person has in the here and now and helps them explore and understand alternative ways of thinking (the cognitive approach) and to challenge their beliefs through behavioural exercises.
In many cases, CBT alone is highly effective in treating OCD, but for some people a combination of CBT and medication can be effective. Medication may reduce the anxiety enough for a person to start, and eventually succeed in therapy.
Just as a person with diabetes can learn to manage the disease by changing their diet and exercise habits, a person with OCD can learn to manage symptoms so that they won’t interfere with daily functioning. This allows them to regain a much improved quality of life, but it is also possible, with the right support and treatment to achieve a complete recovery from OCD.
Fortunately, the medical profession is slowly starting to understand and identify
OCD symptoms much more effectively, resulting in an improvement in treatment; however,
it does still depend on which part of the country you may live in. But, in general,
through charities like OCD-
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