Mental Health


Mandy Kloppers

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involves obsessions (thoughts) and compulsions (behaviour).It is a severely debilitating disorder that can interfere with daily living and cause problems with all aspects of life. Most people have heard of obsessive-compulsive disorder but very few understand the full implications of living with this disorder.

How does OCD affect you?

On average, people with OCD can spend up to 6 hours per day dealing with their obsessions and up to 4 hours of their day dealing with the compulsions. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is the fourth most common mental disorder behind depression, anxiety and substance abuse. obsessions about contamination with dirt and disease are most frequent and feature in about a third of cases. Irrational fears dominate, such as “Did I remember to turn the stove off?” and these repetitive thoughts can lead to a person repeatedly checking whether they have closed a door or turned a light off. Some people with OCD have difficulty dealing with patterns and symmetry people. For instance, they may have a real problem with walking on cracks in pavements, believing that they will be the victim of bad luck if they stand on cracks. Obsessive thoughts are often embarrassing for the person experiencing them and as a result they are really talked about. Many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder do not seek help initially as they are too ashamed.


We all experience intrusive thoughts at times, but for most of us we are able to ignore these thoughts. Obsessive-compulsive disorder makes it harder to ignore intrusive thinking. On some level, people with OCD realise that their thoughts are irrational but they still cannot help themselves. Learning which triggers cause sessions and compulsive behaviours can help to remedy the situation somewhat. Unfortunately support for obsessive-compulsive disorder is patchy and many sufferers do not know where to turn.


The Symptoms of OCD.


Incessantly washing hands.


Feeling unclean or contaminated and being afraid of germs.


Feeling that you might hurt someone-even though this is the last thing you want to do.


Checking things repetitively, such as doors, taps, electrical appliances and light switches.


Putting things in a specific order and arranging objects repetitively.


Thinking of violent and/or sexual thoughts.



Fearing that you may say something embarrassing out loud.


Various drugs have been tried from LSD, lithium and amphetamines. Research has shown that patients who take drugs tend to improve more than those who do not. So why do people have obsessions and compulsions? Mental health professionals believe that compulsions are a shortcut that helps relieve anxiety but only for a short time. One treatment that is used frequently to help OCD sufferers is called exposure therapy. This means seeking out and confronting fears. When the fears cease to exist solely in our minds we begin to realise the mental prison that we have been living in. We begin to understand that we are paying attention to our thoughts and that thoughts are not facts.


When we begin to take our thoughts less seriously, we begin to recognise dysfunctional thoughts for what they really are. We regain perspective. A great talking therapy that helps obsessive-compulsive disorder is called cognitive behavioural therapy. The more we are able to root out the irrational thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts that are rational and based in reality the less of a hold the obsessions and compulsions have.


One important distinction to make about obsessive-compulsive disorder is that compulsions in OCD never give pleasure, they are always felt as an unpleasant demand or burden. Adult obsessive-compulsive disorder usually begins in the teens or early twenties. Symptoms may vary over time but sufferers often don’t seek help for many years. There are various possible causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder such as genetics, stress, life changes, brain changes and individual quirks such as personality and ways of thinking. The more we give in to the obsessions and compulsions, the more we maintain the disorder.


Small steps To Deal with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


Take small steps at first. Make a list of all things that you fear or avoid but the situation is thought to fear the least at the bottom; the worst ones at the top. Then start the bottom and work your way up, tackling one fear at a time. Make sure that you have fully conquered one fear before moving onto the next one. Do this every day for at least one or two weeks. Each time you do it write down the measure of how anxious you are every five minutes. You will then begin to notice how your anxiety rises and falls.


Remember that your anxiety is unpleasant but it won’t do you any harm, it will go away eventually and this will get easier with regular practice.


If you are unsure as to whether you have obsessive-compulsive disorder  or not, you could try an online screening test that is designed as a guide to help you find out whether you show symptoms similar to those of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Go to:


The above website has 20 questions and should take about five minutes. Finally,the good news about obsessive-compulsive disorder is that it does respond well to treatment. Sometimes OCD does disappear on its own, but seeking help can speed up the process.


Mandy X

If you need support with Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, get in touch. CBT is the recommended therapy for this issue.