Obsessions and compulsions are commonly grouped together and may be better known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is thought to affect 2 to 3% of the population and is listed amongst the top 10 most debilitating illnesses by the World Health Organisation in terms of loss of income and decreased quality of life. Many people suffering from OCD are good at concealing their condition, and may be embarrassed to seek professional help. Obsessive Compulsive disorder, as the name suggests, consists of obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions can be intrusive and recurrent thoughts, ideas or impulses and they can be worrying, repulsive, obscene or blasphemous. These thoughts, ideas or impulses are not voluntary and often invade a sufferer’s consciousness. Obsessing over germs and dirt, nagging doubts, sexual thoughts, fear that things are not safe and having things in a particular order are common obsessions. Most of us will have experienced the odd obsessional thought, however if these thoughts occur regularly and interfere with normal daily routines and relationships, they can cause extreme distress.
Compulsions are actions an individual feels compelled to perform to reduce the anxiety they feel from an obsession. They are repeated continuously and often carried out without conscious thought. Examples of compulsions include excessive washing and cleaning, counting and touching things, hoarding, incessant rechecking, repeating certain words or phrases and performing ritualistic behaviour.
Research has found that OCD usually appears in childhood or adolescence and symptoms may come and go, ease over time or get steadily worse. Some sufferers will have the obsessions but no physical outward compulsions, which is a form of OCD often called ‘Pure O’ . Other anxiety disorders that can accompany OCD are depression, eating disorders and drug or alcohol abuse.
The exact cause of OCD is unknown. However, research suggests there are a number of factors that may influence the onset of OCD, including:
Drug therapy and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) are common methods of treatment for OCD. A combination of the two therapies is often an effective method of treatment for most people.
Hypnotherapy combined with CBT can also be effective, and aims to find the root cause of the problem, and deal with the issue. Hypnotherapy is extremely effective at resolving the underlying anxiety that drives the obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions.