What is it?
OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It affects 2-3% of young people and comprises of two parts:
- Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts or images that come into your head and cause you distress.
- Compulsions are the actions or rituals you carry out in order to get rid of, prevent or 'neutralise' the obsessions.
People with OCD also carry out compulsions to try to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessions. Obsessions can include worrying that something has contaminated you, unwanted thoughts or unpleasant sexual thoughts, worrying that something terrible will happen unless you check repeatedly. Compulsions can include excessive hand washing, counting or reciting in your head, repeatedly checking that you have done something such as locked a door or switched something off. When these things start to affect your normal life it means you need to access expert help, which is available at CAMHS.
The treatment regarded as best for OCD is called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This is a "talking therapy" that helps you challenge your unhelpful beliefs and gives you tools to combat OCD. You will learn how to deal with distressing thoughts and feelings by creating a hierarchy of OCD fears and then facing the least upsetting ones first, gradually working up to the more challenging ones when you feel able to. This is called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
Sometimes when the OCD is very severe, medication may be considered alongside the CBT, usually in the form of an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) which is an antidepressant medication that can help reduce anxiety to enable CBT to work more effectively.
You might find this site helpful in understanding some of the medications which may be prescribed:
What can I do?
You will probably be asked to do some homework in between your sessions such as recording a diary of your thoughts, behaviours and anxiety levels or trying to cut down on particular compulsions.
We also know that when someone with OCD seeks and is given reassurance by those around them that although in the short term it can make you feel better, in the long term it can make the OCD worse so it may be that those closest to you are asked to respond to you in a more helpful way than reassuring you.