Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders involve preoccupations and behavioural rituals that are excessive, persistent and cause a person distress. They feel compelled to engage in certain ritualized behaviours despite the consequences.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the most commonly known and treated disorder. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder involves obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are persistent and repeated thoughts, urges or images that are experienced as unwanted and intrusive. Compulsions are behaviours or mental acts that the person feels compelled to do in response to the obsession or a set of rules adhered to rigidly. The person engages in compulsions despite the recurring and often time-consuming nature of the behaviours.
Some obsessive-compulsive related disorders are also characterized by preoccupations, repetitive behaviors or mental acts in response to the preoccupations. Other obsessive-compulsive and related disorders are characterized primarily by recurring body-focused repetitive behaviors (e.g., hair pulling, skin picking) and repeated attempts to decrease or stop the behaviors.
Common forms Obsessions and Compulsions include:
- Contamination obsession and repeated cleaning to reduce the fear of contamination. Some may spend hours washing their hands or cleaning their surroundings
- Repeating or counting to reduce anxiety. Some may have a word, phrase or a behaviour they need to repeat several times
- Obsessively checking clocks, electrical appliances and other objects to reduce danger or harm
- Symmetry obsessions such as constant ordering and arranging items to reduce discomfort
- Forbidden or taboo thoughts followed with mental compulsions such a silent phrases or prayers to prevent something bad from happening
Obsessive Compulsive Related Conditions
Other disorders similar to OCD include body dysmorphic disorder, or the preoccupation with imagined ugliness; hypochondriasis, or the preoccupation with physical illness; trichotillomania known as repetitive hair pulling; skin-picking disorder (excoriation).
One of the most effective treatments for OCD and related disorders is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. One of the main techniques used in CBT that has been shown to improve OCD is Exposure Response Prevention (ERP). The Exposure in ERP involves exposing yourself to the thoughts, images, objects or situations that increase your anxiety and trigger obsessions. The response prevention refers to making a choice not to do a compulsive behaviour once the anxiety or obsessions have been activated. The idea behind this technique is to break the overlearned and ingrained pattern of responding to the obsessive thought with a compulsion, to learn that one can tolerate the anxiety and develop confidence in doing so, and allow the anxiety to subside on its own. For those suffering from OCD, the idea of doing this may seem overwhelming. However, clients are often guided in a step-by-step fashion from the least challenging to the most challenging OCD triggers. There is also a lot of support provided so that they experience themselves moving forward not backwards.