Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that causes people to have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations (obsessions) that force them to do something repetitively (compulsions).
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder that causes obsessions that lead to compulsions. It is a highly misunderstood condition but can be debilitating. Each person’s experience with OCD will be unique and usually follows certain themes or subtypes. Obsessions will center around anxieties about oneself, loved ones, the world, etc., and, to those struggling, compulsions are a way to cope with these anxieties.
OCD can severely interfere with an individual’s life, daily functioning, and more. It can affect anyone and is not a choice nor is it a sign of weakness. This illness also causes obsessions or thoughts that are ego-dystonic. This means that these obsessions and thoughts are opposite to the individual’s values and morals and are in no way a reflection of the individual.
People with OCD will experience symptoms in different ways and on varying levels of severity. This doesn’t make anyone’s journey any more or less valid; it’s just important to remember that your own journey is unique to you. Often, OCD symptoms are split into two categories: obsessions and compulsions. This is an overview of the symptoms, however, there are a range of subtypes that have their own obsessions and compulsions.
- Intrusive and unwanted thoughts
- Recurrent or persistent thoughts, urges, or images that cause severe distress and anxiety
- Feelings of anxiety and unease
- Performing activities or rituals to temporarily alleviate feelings of anxiety from obsessions
- Repetitive behaviours related to obsessive thoughts and/or to prevent something bad from happening (may be physical or mental behaviours)
Note: compulsions do not bring an individual any form of happiness or pleasure. They are rituals, activities, or behaviours that an individual believes will be helping them or those around them.
People may experience some or all of the above symptoms. In some individuals, there may be additional symptoms including anxiety, depression, impulsivity, and others.
There are many different types of OCD. Individuals may experience one subtype or several. Here are some of them, however, please note this may not be a full, extensive list.
- Pure O - Where there are no obvious or visible compulsions but involve severe obsessions, anxiety, and fear
- Harm OCD - Obsessions and fears an individual may harm themselves or others with compulsions to prevent these anxieties
- Relationship OCD - Obsessions and fears that an individual is with the wrong person or experiences severe doubts about their relationship
- Sexual orientation OCD - Fears and obsessions about one’s sexual orientation
- Pedophilia OCD - Fears and obsessions that one may harm a child
- Religious OCD or scrupulosity - Fears and obsessions around one’s religion and morals.
- Contamination OCD - Fears and obsessions of being contaminated with germs and/or diseases
- Responsibility OCD - Fears and obsessions that an individual’s actions, or non-actions, may pose a risk to oneself or others
- Somatic OCD - Fears and obsessions around one’s health and/or surroundings
- Existential OCD - Fears and obsessions around human existence and philosophical questions
- Suicidal OCD - Fears and obsessions of acting on thoughts of suicide
- Metaphysical contamination OCD - Fears and obsessions of things, people, places that may either remind an individual of past traumas or contaminate their mind
- Hoarding - Fears and obsessions around letting go of things with sentimental value
As with any health condition, treatment can vary from person to person. What’s helpful for one may not be helpful for another; however, there are some treatments available that can and do help those struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Treatments include:
- Medication - There is a range of medications, including antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, that may be useful in better managing OCD symptoms.
- Psychotherapy - There is also a range of therapies that have been found to have a positive effect on those experiencing OCD. These include talk therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), group or family therapy, and exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP) which is known as the gold-standard therapy for OCD.
It’s best to talk to your health team when looking at treatment options. They can recommend and guide you through what could be the best fit for you and your well-being.
I have a loved one experiencing obsessive-compulsive disorder, how can I help?
If you have a loved one who is struggling, having an open conversation about how you can best support them can mean the world. For example, asking how you can best support them on their journey. You could offer to help with chores, send them a message to let them know you’re thinking of them, etc. Simply being a friend can often be the best thing to do. Maybe even working on a well-being plan with your loved one that may be useful to both of you.
Understanding this condition is also immensely helpful. It can help you and your loved one to better work with what they’re going through. It’s equally important to also remember to take time out for yourself for self-care.
It’s important for those struggling to know that OCD can be managed. You can find ways to cope with it and heal from it. There is always hope and people who care about you who will support you on your journey.
Voices of Hope wants you to know that your life has value and you deserve to have the help, care, and support you need. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be managed and you can recover, heal, and live a life free of it. We understand how difficult mental illnesses can be, but you are worthy, and you are strong. You can get through this. Reach out and keep fighting. You are not alone. We believe in you.
Resources and links:
- Mental Health Foundation - OCD
- Cleveland Clinic - OCD
- Mind - OCD Symptoms
- Alegra Kastens
- Anxiety New Zealand - Understanding OCD
- Alexandra's Instagram
- Bite Back
- Flipped Lid OCD Instagram
- International OCD Foundation
- Just a Thought - OCD
- Intrusive Thoughts
- Mayo Clinic - OCD
- The Mighty - OCD
Voices of Hope does not offer direct mental health services and our team is not comprised of trained mental health professionals. If you require assistance, we recommend visiting our resources page for helpful information.
If you are in immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, or need advice for someone in your life that is at risk of immediate harm to themselves please contact your local emergency services.