What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
OCD is a common anxiety disorder and estimates suggest it effects 1.2% of the population in the UK. OCD is very debilitating and can prevent sufferers from carrying out many of their daily activities. It can stop a person from functioning fully at work, in study, home management and within relationships.
Most individuals diagnosed with OCD follow a similar pattern in thought and behaviour. They develop obsessions where their thinking is overwhelmed by obsessive concerns (e.g. becoming contaminated, their house catching fire, or their family dying). The obsession can lead to intense overwhelming anxiety. An OCD sufferer may then develop a pattern of compulsive behaviours intended to manage and reduce the anxiety. Common compulsions are hand washing, asking for reassurance, repeating words, counting, checking, repeating actions and neutralising thoughts. These compulsions can provide short term relief from anxiety. However, the obsession and anxiety return and the individual begins the compulsive behaviour again. These cycles can become very frequent and very time consuming, preventing the sufferer from functioning. Most people with OCD realise that their thinking and compulsions are irrational but cannot stop themselves from acting to reduce anxiety.
What’s The Solution?
At iRise we would recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to psychologically treat this condition. It is highly effective as a lone treatment for OCD therapy and recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). These guidelines also recommend medication as a treatment. Many people are able to learn how to manage this disorder without medication but others find that the medication reduces anxiety to a point where they are more able to challenge their fears using CBT.
We always work collaboratively with our clients to provide the best results to OCD therapy. Our service is confidential and we aim to foster a safe environment where you can feel positive and empowered.
Please see these links for more information on OCD therapy and CBT:
Jennifer had been increasingly bothered by symptoms of OCD over the
last twelve months. She was exhausted from spending two hours a day on
counting while repeating certain behaviours. Jennifer was obsessive
about the safety of her home. She repeatedly experienced intrusive
thoughts about people breaking in and damaging her property or
attacking her and her one year old baby (the birth of her child led to
an increase in symptoms). At night, Jennifer could spend up to one
hour checking doors and windows were locked. In addition, Jennifer
also spent up to one hour checking doors and windows each time she was
preparing to leave the house. This often involved coming back to the
house, after driving away, as she continued to doubt herself even
after the checks. Returning to the house to check was the most
distressing thing for her as it would make her late for everything she
As night time approached Jennifer said she became increasingly
anxious about the checks before bed. She said she would go to each
window and count in blocks of six while staring at the window locks.
She would experience thoughts about someone breaking in and doubting
thoughts about whether she was completely sure that the windows were
shut and locked. Each window could take more than five minutes as she
counted over and over until the obsessive thoughts and anxiety
subsided. Rather than believe what she was seeing, or doing if she had
shut the window, Jennifer responded to her thoughts as if they were
factual. She believed that her compulsive behaviour was keeping her,
and her baby, safe. Jennifer also explained the same process occurred
for the front and back door and that these were the most difficult for
her. Each door could take ten minutes of staring and counting before
the obsessive thoughts were neutralised and anxiety subsided. The
process before bed was also impacting on her ability to get off to
sleep as she was wide awake due to anxiety. This in turn led her to
feel tired and therefore more vulnerable to feeling anxious.
Jennifer’s OCD was treated using cognitive behavioural therapy. The
very start of treatment in her OCD therapy focused on defining the difference between
intrusive thoughts and worry about the intrusive thoughts. Jennifer
was encourage not to engage with the intrusive thought that someone
will break in to her house and to approach it mindfully. We used
cognitive techniques to challenge her worry about the intrusive
thoughts and her beliefs about the repetitive checking –
specifically that they keep her safe and are necessary to reduce her
In addition to her worry about the intrusion, Jennifer’s
ritualistic checking and counting also played a key role in
maintaining her OCD. The rituals prevented her from being exposed to
anxiety and so prevented her from learning to tolerate the anxiety. We
then broke down the checking and counting rituals into smaller parts
and began to prevent certain checking behaviours. By doing this
Jennifer learned that she can tolerate her anxiety when choosing not
to act. As she became successful at reducing compulsive behaviours she
could also see the errors in her thinking (such as: ‘these rituals
make me safe’) and was more able to challenge her worries and
beliefs about her intrusive thought and the ritualistic and repetitive
This mini case study is an example and is not based on any one
person’s specific details as all clients information is treated with
strict confidentiality. If you or anyone you know may be suffering
from OCD and would like some help, CBT is the recommended treatment
in OCD therapy championed by the NICE guidelines. Please feel free to contact us if
you would like to have an initial consultation.