Home page   Our team   Fees   Factsheets   Links    

How do I contact you?

We have locations at Preston, Mill Park and Northcote.

For all enquiries please call 9495 1374.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

On this page: What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? | Why does Obsessive Compulsive Disorder develop? | What is the impact of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? | How do you treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder the essential feature of which is recurrent obsessions or compulsions that are either time consuming, that is they take more than one hour per day, or they cause significant distress or impairment. A person with OCD at some point will have recognised that they obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable.
Obsessions are persistent, intrusive, unwanted thoughts that the person is unable to control. The thoughts are distressing and uncomfortable. Compulsions are persistent needs or urges to perform behaviours to reduce the anxiety or discomfort caused by the obsession.

Sometimes people with OCD don’t experience compulsions. For these people they experience obsessional thoughts which cause anxiety, and they engage in mental rituals to reduce anxiety.

Why does Obsessive Compulsive Disorder develop?

Unfortunately no one is certain what causes OCD. There are a number of theories, including that people with OCD have a deficiency of serotonin which is a chemical in the brain, that OCD is genetic and is passed on through families, and that people with OCD have learnt the behaviours. There is no research to definitively support any of these theories, but that does not mean that there aren’t effective treatments for OCD.

What is the impact of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be a crippling disorder severely limiting a person’s ability to function. As with other anxiety disorders it is associated with depression. Further, people with OCD can develop other anxiety disorders.

How do you treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Research suggests that Behaviour Therapy is most useful for addressing the problems associated with OCD. Essentially the treatment involves exposure to the triggers that normally cause a person to ritualise, whether that be situations or thoughts, but preventing the ritualising. This is called exposure and response prevention. The components of this work include:

  • Thoroughly assessing a person’s difficulties, understanding what causes the urge to perform rituals or compulsive behaviours.
  • Explaining the exposure and response prevention program to the client, and that the work is done very gently and gradually.
  • Designing a hierarchy of stimuli, that is difficult situations or thoughts, to work through according to their level of difficulty.
  • Gradually working through this hierarchy with the person exposing themselves first to easier situations or thoughts, or to parts of a situation, while preventing themselves from engaging in the ritual they would usually perform.
  • Homework involving continued exposure to difficult situations.

It is recommended that a person with OCD work with a Psychologist to overcome their difficulties as the work is challenging and a Psychologist can provide information, direction and support.

Taken from Andrews, G., Crino, R., Hunt, C., Lampe, L.. & Page, A. (1994). The Treatment of Anxiety Disorders: Clinician’s Guide and Patient Manuals. Cambridge University Press.

Back to home page ::

Content copyright ©2004 Psychcentre