What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a serious anxiety-related condition where a person experiences frequent intrusive and unwelcome obsessional thoughts, often followed by repetitive compulsions, impulses or urges.
The illness affects as many as 1.2% of the population in the UK and 1.6% of the population across the US, from young children to adults, regardless of gender or social or cultural background. In fact, it can be so debilitating and disabling that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has actually ranked OCD in the top ten of the most disabling illnesses of any kind, in terms of lost earnings and diminished quality of life.
Based on current estimates for the UK population, there are potentially around 741,504 people living with OCD at any one time. But it is worth noting that a disproportionately high number, 50% of all these cases, will fall into the severe category, with less than a quarter being classed as mild cases.
OCD presents itself in many guises, and certainly goes far beyond the common perception that OCD is merely hand washing or checking light switches. In general, OCD sufferers experience obsessions which take the form of persistent and uncontrollable thoughts, images, impulses, worries, fears or doubts. They are often intrusive, unwanted, disturbing, significantly interfere with the ability to function on a day-to-day basis as they are incredibly difficult to ignore. People with OCD often realise that their obsessional thoughts are irrational, but they believe the only way to relieve the anxiety caused by them is to perform compulsive behaviours, often to prevent perceived harm happening to themselves or, more often than not, to a loved one.
Compulsions are repetitive physical behaviours and actions or mental thought rituals that are performed over and over again in an attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessional thoughts. Avoidance of places or situations to prevent triggering these obsessive thoughts is also considered to be a compulsion. But unfortunately, any relief that the compulsive behaviours provide is only temporary and short lived, and often reinforces the original obsession, creating a gradual worsening cycle of the OCD.
Whilst OCD can be treated, and many people can recover, or at least learn to live with their OCD, for some people help can come too late, and their life can be left completely devastated by the OCD. For some people with OCD, they may find that their relationships are destroyed, or their education or career is ruined, and sadly for some, although rare, occasionally OCD can lead to tragic consequences.
For more detailed information about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder please visit one of the following charity websites by clicking any of the logos in the footer of this website.