Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition where a person suffers from obsessive thoughts and compulsive activity.
An obsession may be an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters their mind. This can and frequently does lead to feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease. A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that someone feels they need to carry out in order to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought.
For example, someone may wash their hands hundreds of times a day, clean their house from top to bottom every day, check the windows and doors are locked several times before they can leave the house or count up to a particular number before they can do anything.
It isn’t clear exactly what causes OCD but in some cases it’s thought to run in families and therefore may be linked to certain inherited genes that affect the brain’s development. Studies have also shown that people with OCD have an imbalance of serotonin in their brain which is a chemical used to transmit information from one brain cell to another.
It’s estimated that OCD affects approximately 12 in every 1,000 people in the UK - this is the equivalent to almost 750,000 people. The condition can affect men, women and children and although it typically starts to interfere with a person’s life during early adulthood, problems can develop at any age.
Some of the symptoms of OCD include:
* Unwanted, intrusive or distressing thoughts, images or urges entering the mind
* Repetitive behaviours or mental acts that need to be carried out as a result of anxiety and distress caused by the above
* Fear of contamination by disease, infection or an unpleasant substance
* A need for symmetry or orderliness. For example, repetitive cleaning or ensuring that all labels on the tins in a cupboard face the same way
* Compulsive behaviours such as hand washing, checking doors are locked, taps are off, counting, ordering, arranging, hoarding and repeating words silently
If you think that you or someone you know could be suffering with OCD, please feel free to visit our Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Knowledge Centre for more information about the condition, the symptoms and treatments available.