Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a form of anxiety disorder that typically develops in late childhood or early adolescence. It consists of both obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are a form of recurrent anxiety with compulsions being repetitive rituals or behaviours that are used to control or neutralise these obsessive worries. These compulsions can be very time consuming and take up time that would otherwise be used for daily activities such as school or work. People with OCD are typically aware of their behaviour and can feel shame that leads to keeping these behaviours secret.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is different to obsessive compulsive personality disorder which is a personality disorder marked by a rigid need for orderliness, neatness and perfectionism.
Obsessions. These are recurring thoughts or topics that continue to persist despite efforts to ignore or confront them. Some common obsessions include:
Compulsions are behaviours that can occur because a person feels that they must do the behaviour or because the activity gives them a sense of control and negates the anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts. Some common forms of compulsion are:
OCD is thought to develop from a combination of genetic and environmental factors however current research is not conclusive. As is the case for multiple health disorders it is likely that multiple factors increase a person’s risk. Factors include:
A psychologist, psychiatrist or other licensed mental health professional is required to diagnose OCD. Using a manual such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a diagnosis will be made through an assessment of feelings, thoughts and behaviours.
To be diagnosed with OCD a person must have either or both obsessions or compulsions that:
OCD is most commonly treated with psychological therapies such as cognitive behaviour therapy - a method that slowly alters thinking patterns into healthier behaviours - and exposure and response prevention - a method that slowly and safely uses images, thoughts or objects of obsession to desensitise a person to their compulsions and worry. In some cases medication may also be used to assist in the treatment of OCD.