Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Do you …

  • Wash your hands repeatedly?
  • Spend large amounts of time repeatedly checking things?
  • Feel that you have to do certain things in a specific order?
  • Repeatedly count things to a certain number?
  • Have continually repeating thoughts that you find upsetting?
  • Avoid certain situations because you fear you may do something bad?

What is Obsessional Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

OCD is characterised by distressing intrusive thoughts, and usually a compulsion to perform activities such as checking or cleaning.

Symptoms include:

  • Repetitive behaviours such as hand washing, cleaning, checking, or counting.
  • Repetitive mental acts such as praying or repeating words silently.
  • Recurrent intrusive thoughts, urges or mental pictures that may not make sense and cause you anxiety and distress.
  • Your symptoms may take up a lot of your time and attention and make you (and perhaps others around you) stressed and unhappy. They can also lead you to limit the scope of the things that you do in your life.

Some people also feel compelled to pick their skin or pull their hair. For details on habit problems, please click here

How common is it?

OCD is the fourth most common mental health condition. In the UK 1% of the population have OCD. This is probably an under-estimation though because many people feel too embarrassed to tell someone about it and other people are not aware that their suffering is recognised as a clinical condition.

What can I do about it?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends two main treatments for OCD: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and medication. Guided Self Help, may also be of benefit. Depending on your circumstances, you may benefit from one of these types of treatment or a combination of the two.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective types of treatment for OCD. Generally, CBT helps you to identify unhelpful and unrealistic beliefs and behavioural patterns. You and your therapist work together to change your behaviour and replace unhelpful beliefs with more realistic and balanced ones. CBT teaches you new skills and helps you understand how to react more positively to situations that would usually cause you anxiety.

If you would like to know get help from our service or know more about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, you can request an appointment with our service. Alternatively, you may wish to speak to your GP about  a referral to our service.

How can I help myself?

The organisations below may be able to offer you further support in dealing with your OCD.

OCD-UK www.ocduk.org

OCD Action www.ocdaction.org.uk

Both organisations provide support to sufferers and their families.

Patient story