Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD refers to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  It is not the same as an obsessional personality trait – many people have long-lasting obsessive traits but aren’t suffering from OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is when the obsessions are really distressing and seriously interfere with everyday life.

Obsessions can be ideas, thoughts, impulses, images, or rituals which are intrusive, distressing, irrational and outside the person’s control.

Obsessions take the following forms:

  • Fear of contamination (such as touching doorknobs, shaking hands), either of contaminating others or of being contaminated.
  • Obsessive doubts (the need to endlessly check).
  • Feeling driven to conduct a ritual (e.g. hand wash 3 times) to ‘undo’ the distress and find relief.
  • Repetitive behaviour
  • Intrusive, unwanted, aggressive, horrific or sexual images.
  • Unwanted impulse to do something completely against the person’s will, e.g. the impulse to stab someone they love.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a distressing condition but can be successfully treated using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques.  The condition seems so weird the person may think they are going mad, but that is not correct.  In all other respects they can be a normal, intelligent, successful person.  The therapy involves the person first understanding the nature of their obsessional problem and then changing their usual habits of thinking and behaviour.  This can be difficult for them at first, but what a difference it can make to their lives ultimately.  Having treated many patients with OCD I know what a relief it can be to lose the distress and start re-living their life without so much disruption.

A course of therapy is between 8-15 sessions over a 9 month period.  Sessions are frequent at first (every 2 weeks) but less frequent in the latter part of therapy (about once a month) as the person enters the ‘follow-up’ stage.