What is OCD?

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

By Ida Anderson

With OCD, the obsession part, is the thoughts that come into your mind that you can’t get rid of. They are thoughts rooted in worry and fear. And they are very strong and the only way to get rid of them is by carrying out the compulsion. The compulsion is the thing you do to get rid of the thoughts and therefore reduce the worry. However, although the worry may initially start to go away, it doesn’t take long for the thoughts to come back. In the end, you can spend longer and longer doing the compulsions trying to make the fear go away.

Many people think of OCD as excessive cleaning or tidying. However, this is usually not the case. It is also often very hard to diagnose OCD and it can go unrecognised for many years. This is because it is not always obvious to spot. Many of the compulsions may be things you do in your head such as counting or looking at things in a certain order. Compulsions can be just not to touch something because you may think it is dangerous in some way, even though it isn’t. This can narrow down your life and how you can live in your own home.

Sometimes the thoughts or obsessions can be about something bad happening to yourself or someone you love. You have to do the compulsion to stop this bad thing happening. Or the thought may be much more in general, especially if you have autism. For example, you might not be able to touch a plate just because it doesn't feel right and it gives you a terrible feeling inside.

OCD is usually treated by something called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with Exposure Therapy. This gets you to reframe how you respond to the anxiety and gradually reduce it by exposing yourself to the anxiety. However, this sort of treatment only works for about 80% of people. Those with autism can find this type of therapy particularly difficult due to rigid and repetitive thinking and it needs to be carefully tailored to the person. It is also often treated with medications called SSRIs. However, again these don’t work for everyone. And people with autism often have a severe negative effect with SSRIs causing increased agitation and suicidal urges.

Feel free to let me know what you think!

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