Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental condition that’s a lot more common than people think; OCD actually affects 1.2 million Brits but sufferers tend to hide their compulsions, which is why it can be hard to detect.
OCD involves people suffering from a mixture of obsessive and unwanted thoughts of which they can’t control. Something that will surprise most people is the fact that a lot of us will suffer with these thoughts or obsessions at some point but the majority of people can control them enough to supress them and it is here that OCD sufferers are different.
People who suffer with OCD cannot control these thoughts which is the reason that they find them so distressing. Generally, a sufferer will feel much calmer after they have carried out their compulsion but if they can’t complete it then they will become extremely anxious. OCD involves a vicious circle of unwanted thoughts and rituals as sufferers know that they’re unreasonable and unnecessary but are unable to break them.
Common fears and obsessions that arise with OCD sufferers are a fear of dirt and germs, fears of violent thoughts that involve harming others and being unable to let go of possessions. These types of thoughts are automatic and unconscious so the sufferer has no control; they also cause a lot of distress because the thoughts can be pretty scary and upsetting and they’re unable to control them like most people.
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Although OCD is a classified mental condition, sufferers are not dangerous to themselves or others. They know that the thoughts that they have are irrational and unreasonable and would never act upon them which is why they find it even more distressing because they are unable to stop them and they’re unable to stop their unnecessary rituals.
OCD tends to be underdiagnosed as sufferers keep their symptoms a secret from family and friends through fears of people thinking that they’re mad but at the moment it is a condition that affects around 2% of the population and affects men and women equally. Most people’s symptoms will begin to develop in their teenage years but it is a condition that can develop in children and adults just as easily. OCD is a condition that affects all sufferers differently but it can run in families and can sometimes be linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Treating OCD takes a lot of time and skill because professionals have to effectively re-programme sufferers thought processes in order to help them control negative thoughts and their need to complete obsessive rituals. Medically, there are two main treatments that are used to help OCD sufferers but there are also a number of techniques that they can try at home to help supress their thoughts and emotions.
The first of the two techniques is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which helps the sufferer to understand the condition which helps them combat the fear of the disorder. CBT involves a number of techniques which centre around exposure. Sufferers will be exposed to their fears and will be prevented from performing their compulsions in order to show them they’re not in danger if they don’t complete the ritual. At first this will create a huge amount of discomfort for the sufferer and they will become increasingly anxious but over time they will be able to cope with the discomfort that they feel and get over it without having to complete the ritual.
The last treatment is Anti-Obsessional Medication which alters the chemical balance in the brain – particularly the levels of serotonin. This technique can be used in conjunction with CBT but the medication has to be prescribed by a doctor.
Jenna Dawson is a medical professional and after her own experience fighting OCD she always recommends that her friends, family and patients go to The Manor Clinic for treatment if they’re suffering.