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OCD: How to deal with it

Written by Josh Phillips Posted in Mental Illness

OCD: How to deal with it

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is an anxiety disorder. An obsession is the repeated urge to do something, or desire for something; compulsion is when you feel the need to constantly repeat an activity, such as washing your hands or arranging objects.

If you have OCD, you can feel as though you are a slave to these strange desires, with which you may not be comfortable; it can be unpleasant and frightening.

Almost everyone has little rituals or hang-ups, things that they worry about. If you are diagnosed with OCD, these compulsions and obsessions are so strong that they stop you from living your life how you want to.

There are common patterns to both obsessions and compulsions. Common obsessions can include:

  • Fearing contamination e.g. from dirt and germs in a toilet
  • Imagining doing harm e.g. thinking that you are going to push someone in front of a train
  • Intrusive sexual impulses e.g. worrying that you will expose yourself at school or on a night out
  • Excessive doubts e.g. thinking that you have an illness despite having no symptoms
  • ‘Forbidden’ thoughts. A fear of failing to prevent harm e.g. feeling that your friends might be in danger.

Common compulsions can include:

  • Repeating actions e.g. touching every light switch in the house five times
  • Ordering or arranging e.g. keeping food organised by colour in the fridge
  • Washing e.g. always washing hands six times with soap and six times without soap after using the toilet
  • Checking e.g. reading through an email ten times before sending it to make sure it doesn’t have any mistakes in it
  • Touching e.g. only buying things in the supermarket that you have touched with both hands
  • Praying e.g. repeating a mantra again and again whenever you hear about an accident
  • Focusing on a number e.g. having to do everything three times, or buy three of every item when you are shopping. 

If you think that either you or someone you know is suffering from OCD, then the first thing you should do is contact your local GP. They can give you advice and refer you to more specialised services to get treatment.

Treatment for OCD takes two main forms: talking therapy and medicine.

Talking therapy for OCD tends to be known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The aim of CBT is to identify bad patterns of thought and connections between thoughts, feelings and behaviour, and to build up practical ways of coping with them.

In more severe cases, this talking therapy can be combined with medicine, which some people find useful. Medicines designed to help with mental disorders such as OCD can be very effective, but can have some potentially nasty side effects.

For more information, you can contact your local doctor, or, if you feel uncomfortable talking about your feelings to someone you know, you may find it easier to speak to a stranger who can listen and empathise. This could be a support worker, healthcare professional or even one of TCHC’s advisers.

About the Author

Josh Phillips

Josh Phillips interned with us for six weeks during his summer holidays while studying English Literature and Language at the University of Oxford. He has written reviews on shows for the Edinburgh Festival and has also represented his University College on the BBC's University Challenge.

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