Here is information about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,  is a Disorder of the Brain and behaviour and can be a cause of severe Anxiety for those people affected by it. It is very much thought driven. The thoughts can be very severe and disturbing and cause extreme Anxiety.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is often referred to as the "doubting disease"

It's a severe Anxiety related condition where a person experiences frequent intrusive and unwelcome obsession thoughts, often followed by repetitive compulsions, impulses or urges.

Here in the United Kingdom current estimates suggest that 1.2% of the population will have this condition, which equates to 12 out of every 1000 people, and based on the current estimates for the UK population, these statistics mean that potentially, approximately 741,504 people are living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at any one time.

But it is worth noting that a disproportionately high number, 50% of all these cases, will fall into the severe category, with less than a quarter being classed as mild cases.

Throughout the world though there are millions of people affected by this condition which is now considered to be the fourth most common mental illness in many western countries that will affect men, women and children regardless of their race, religion, nationality or socio-economic group.

People vary in severity with some people having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder type traits but otherwise living a fairly unrestricted life, where as others find their life is dominated by their intrusive thoughts and symptoms of anxiety.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affects males and females equally.

So how can this condition affect you?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can present in many different ways in different people and is not just excessive hand washing or checking the cooker is turned off as is the common perception.

If you suffer with the condition you will typically suffer obsessions which take the form of uncontrollable thoughts or images in your mind's eye, worries, fears and severe doubts that are really persistent and really difficult to ignore. You don't want them and they are really disturbing and they will significantly affect your ability to function in your usual daily manner.

You will know that this is irrational but feel that the only way to keep this anxiety at bay is to perform "compulsive" behaviours as you believe that this is the only way to prevent perceived harm happening to either yourself or to someone you love dearly.

When I talk about compulsions, these are repetitive behaviours and actions or even thought rituals that the person suffering will perform again and again and again while they try to relieve the anxiety that these obsession thoughts.

A sufferer may also avoid any place or situation that may trigger these thoughts as they are so fearful of them and feel so powerless against them. This avoidance is also considered a compulsion.

The problem with these repetitive behaviours is that any relief that is felt by performing them is usually very short lived and because behaviours are in place this only serves to reinforce the obsessions and creates the cycle of OCD that will get worse as time goes on.

There are four main areas of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and while there are different forms of the illness within each of the four categories below, each person's condition will fall into one of these categories:

  • Checking
  • Hoarding
  • Intrusive Thoughts and going over and over things
  • Contamination or mental contamination

If you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you will feel a seemingly uncontrollable urge and personal responsibility to prevent harm, either to yourself or someone you love dearly. You will also see the threat of this harm as massive. These factors and the fear they bring will drive the compulsive behaviours that you have. You will have compulsions as you are trying to prevent the worst happening.

Can everyone have a bit of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in them?

These symptoms can be experienced by most people at some times in their lives, maybe in a time of stress when they have felt compelled to perform a odd behavioural pattern.

But real Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as with all Anxiety related conditions can have a huge and devastating impact on a person's life, while also affecting everyone who is close to them.

When your symptoms affect your everyday function such as career, friendships, family relationships or just your ability to live your life, then you are likely to get a clinical diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

How is it diagnosed?

  • When your Obsessions and Compulsions take up lots of your time (over 1 hour)
  • When your intrusive thoughts cause you significant distress and anxiety
  • When your obsession and Compulsions disrupt the function of your daily life

The problem here though is that this disorder can go years before being diagnosed for a number of reasons such as

  • People often just do not have the knowledge to understand what is going on with them and so do not seek help
  • People are scared or ashamed to seek help, mainly due to stigma, they keep it their secret
  • There is a lack of understanding of the condition even with health professionals

A very frightening fact is that people often have a period of 10 to 15 years (yes years) between their initial symptoms developing and actually seeking treatment. So much needless suffering for nothing.

Fortunately Medical professionals are getting much better at understanding and identifying Compulsive symptoms in people and that means there has been an improvement in treatment. However different areas can be hit and miss. This is why it is so important to educate people and also to work to reduce the stigma.

To people suffering with the condition and their peers, their thoughts and behaviours can seem really shocking. The important point here though is that however shocking they are, they are just thoughts and they will not be acted upon.

See more information on how to deal with obsessive thoughts here.

As with other Anxiety conditions the sufferers logical mind stays the same, even though their anxious Obsessive Compulsive Disorder mind is spiralling out of control, this means that the sufferer will know that their thoughts and behaviours are irrational, but they will be incapable of stopping them. Fear and doubt are the drivers here as the element of doubt will drive their fear that if they don't perform the behaviour then that harm may actually come to themselves or a loved one. The risk level is irrelevant as even with small risk there is still a risk. Remember the person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder will always feel responsible for stopping the bad even from happening.

For some people their usual symptoms will remain unchanged, however for others over time they could experience a change in the type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that bothers them. Symptoms change over time and can be much worse during times of stress.

It's really important to seek treatment if you believe you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder  as if it is left untreated it feeds on itself and gains strength getting worse over time.

If not sorted it can completely consume a person, so should be taken seriously.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is often a chronic condition, but the good news it is treatable and it is possible to regain your quality of life.