Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

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What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and what are the symptoms?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a form of anxiety. It involves the combination of obsessions and compulsions that interfere with someone’s daily life. OCD can affect men and women, young and old, from all walks of life.

Obsessions are intrusive, repetitive thoughts, impulses or images that are distressing and cannot be ignored. Common examples include thoughts that one is dirty or contaminated, that one has not checked something well enough, unwanted violent or sexual images, or thoughts related to things being out of order.

In response to obsessions, people feel the need to perform compulsions which are actions or mental acts aimed to reduce anxiety from the obsession. These can include washing hands or cleaning, checking and re-checking, counting, touching, ordering or other actions/mental acts.

While some of the above thoughts and actions are common, people with OCD can spend an extraordinary amount of time each day dealing with obsessions and compulsions (i.e. spending hours checking the locks in the house). These symptoms can be very distressing, debilitating and interfering with day-to-day life.

How is it treated?

OCD is often treated with talk therapy, medications and self-care. The exact treatment course is often decided by an individual in consultation with his or her family doctor.

Talk therapy often includes cognitive behavioural therapy. This treatment helps one identify their obsessions and compulsions, challenge their thoughts, and learn new ways to cope. Treatment often involves slowly exposing one to triggers for obsessions and preventing compulsion thereby breaking the link between them.

For some, medications can also be helpful to treat symptoms. Medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been shown to reduce and treat OCD symptoms.

Self-care (e.g. eating a balanced diet, sleeping well at night, regular exercise, socialization and abstinence from alcohol and drugs) is also an important step in staying healthy. Support from family and friends can also be an important part of treatment.

What should I do to get help?

If you or a friend/family member is suffering with symptoms of OCD, it is important to see your family doctor or speak with a mental health professional available through the Mental Health and Substance Use Centre in your community.

Resources

For more information and other resources that may be of help please see below:

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