Did you know 1.2% of the UK population suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)? This week (9th - 15th October) is OCD Awareness Week which aims to raise awareness of the condition and show there is support out there - you aren't the only one suffering from this condition.
Many of us have irrational thoughts from time to time, such as 'if I don't check the house alarm is on when I leave then someone will break in', but when these thoughts start to wreak havoc with our everyday lives such as affecting relationships or interfering with your job then OCD is diagnosed.
There are two factors to OCD; the obsessions and the compulsions. Obsessions are the thoughts, ideas and urges which feel impossible to ignore and can be very persistent. These thoughts can cause a great amount of anxiety, particularly if they are distressing thoughts about causing harm to someone you love, whilst compulsions are the rituals we perform to rid ourselves of the anxiety we feel from the obsessive thoughts. For example, someone who is worried about being dirty and becoming ill, might feel as though they need to wash their hands frequently. For someone suffering from OCD, they feel as though they need to perform these compulsions or something bad might happen to a loved one.
Most OCD sufferers know their obsessions and compulsions are irrational which can make it harder for them to seek help.
Types of OCD include:
Contamination - feeling the need to clean due to the fear of something being unclean and causing illness.
Checking - feeling the need to check things in order to prevent damage, such as checking you haven't left appliances on, checking you've locked the door.
Hoarding - feeling as though you can't part with useless and/or worn items.
Religion - feeling as though you need to recite prayers and phrases a certain amount of times to restore your faith after having anti-religious thoughts.
Violence and sex - feeling guilt and shame over disturbing sexual thoughts. This type of OCD is known as 'pure-O' and ends with the obsessions - people with this type of OCD don't carry out compulsive acts.
OCD tends to develop slowly over a long period of time so we may not notice what has triggered our symptoms. Usually, it is a combination of genetic factors and stressful life events such as bereavement, illness, a new relationship, retirement, financial stress, family problems, and childhood abuse or neglect.
The cycle of obsessions and compulsions are involuntary and it can be very hard to stop. However, it is possible, over time, to regulate your compulsions through psychological therapies such as cognitive-behaviour therapy.
Follow these tips to help manage your OCD symptoms:
Talk to someone - talk to a friend or family member. Having someone close to you understand your situation can help you feel as though you're not alone.
Seek help - speak to a counsellor or therapist. They can provide the help and support you need to regulate your compulsions and can help you understand the reasons behind your OCD.
Exercise - 30 minutes of exercise a day can help refocus your mind and release feel-good endorphins in the brain which helps reduce feelings of anxiety.
Practice relaxation techniques such as mindfulness - this can help reduce stress which in turn, can reduce symptoms of OCD.
Read self-help guides - they can provide you with structured programmes to follow.
OCD can be a distressing condition but it's treatable and there is help available. Remember, you're not alone and speaking to someone about your condition can greatly improve your quality of life.