What is OCD?
In brief, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterised by intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviours or compulsions. OCD can take various forms and differing levels of intensity, examples range from compulsively washing your hands, avoiding cracks in the pavements, or extreme hoarding.
OCD is driven by the fear of consequences, no matter how unlikely the risk. As the ritual becomes repeated again and again, neural pathways are developed in the brain to positively support such actions and contradict the brain’s rational thought process.
OCD is considered to be the fourth most common mental illness in many western countries. It’s also a condition which can start at a very young age; in 80% of cases, OCD symptoms present themselves before the age of 18. OCD affects three in 100 of the adult population.
And OCD is on the rise. A recent report from the Mental Health Foundation found that fear levels are rising in the UK, and more than seven million of us currently suffer anxiety problems severe enough to affect our health. This increased fear and anxiety coupled with our busy modern lives, goes some way to explaining the rise of OCD, as we seek to take comfort in performing small rituals to bring back some control into our lives.
OCD sufferers commonly share personality traits such as high attention to detail, avoidance of risk, careful planning, exaggerated sense of responsibility and a tendency to take time in making decisions.
OCD has even taken on a slightly hip image with the likes of David Beckham (he has a thing about lining up coke cans and cleaning hotel rooms) and Florence Welch admitted to having the condition. Tory MP Charles Walker came clean (excuse the pun) about his battle with OCD and described his condition as “a hundred little blackmails a day”. Awareness of the condition has grown a great deal and there even is an OCD awareness week (this year its from 8-14 October 2017).
Can OCD be treated?
There are different methods which can help sufferers with OCD such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) as well as medication. However, OCD symptoms persist at moderate levels even following adequate treatment and a completely symptom-free period is uncommon.
And for more information on OCD check out a national charity called OCD UK