15th February marks the start of OCD week of action. We often hear people use the phrase “I’m a bit OCD” but are we trivialising a condition which can in fact be very serious? The team from Priory Hospital North London provide a top line explanation…

A serious condition Obsessive compulsive disorder

OCD is a serious disorder affecting around 1.2% of the UK population, and ranked by the World Health Organisation as one of the top ten most disabling physical and mental illnesses.

Compulsive thoughts and behaviours

OCD is an anxiety disorder characterised by recurrent obsessions and compulsions.

An obsession is a thought, image or impulse usually experienced as inappropriate or intrusive by the individual, i.e. a negative thought.

A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour which is performed in response to the obsession, to try to reduce or prevent anxiety, or to stop something bad from happening. An example of this could be if someone has an intrusive thought of being contaminated by germs, they may repetitively wash their hands in response.

However this is not the only form of OCD; common presentations not only include contamination worries but also double checking and hoarding behaviour, as well as ruminations/intrusive thoughts and images, often of violent, sexual or blasphemous nature.

In summary, these obsessions and compulsions are uninvited and can be completely overwhelming to someone living with OCD despite their best efforts to avoid thinking and acting in a certain way.

Treatment for OCD

So, how do you know when OCD has become a problem for you or someone you care about?

People are generally advised to seek help when obsessive behaviours or thoughts begin to interfere with everyday functioning or cause marked distress.

The most effective and commonly used treatment for OCD is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which helps the sufferer develop alternative perspectives and tackle unhelpful behaviours. The first step would be to consult your GP and then look to find local support. Getting the right help and support is vital to the success of someone’s treatment. 

Further information

To read about treatment options available, please visit our treatment pages or for more detailed information about OCD please visit the OCD action website.

For more details on the full range of Priory Services, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to make an enquiry.