Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

People with OCD experience obsessions, compulsions, or both. Many people associate OCD with behaviours such as checking door locks, washing hands repeatedly, or keeping things in a very particular order. While these behaviours do occur in OCD, they do not necessarily reflect the disorder and may be part of normal experience.  There are also many other behaviours that can be thought of as obsessive or compulsive.

Obsessions involve:

  • Unwanted Thoughts.

People with OCD may experience thoughts, urges, or impulses that are intrusive and unwanted. These thoughts might “pop” into their heads unexpectedly and often. Some examples include thoughts of being contaminated by germs, unwanted sexual images, or thoughts of forgetting to do something important, like lock a door or turn off the stove. Since these thoughts are unwanted, they usually cause anxiety or distress.

  • Attempts to Get Rid of Thoughts.

As a result of the distressing nature of unwanted thoughts, urges, or impulses, those with OCD will often attempt to ignore or get rid of them. They may attempt to distract themselves with other thoughts or perform actions aimed at reducing them. These thoughts or actions may become compulsive.

Compulsions involve:

  • Repetitive Thoughts or Behaviours.

When individuals experience obsessions they may feel driven to engage in repetitive behaviours or thoughts. Behaviours can include things like washing hands or checking locks repeatedly. Thoughts might involve repeatedly counting, praying, or saying particular words. Sometimes those with OCD have very specific rules for these behaviours or thoughts that must be strictly adhered to. They may, for instance, always count up to the same number or wash their hands a specific amount of times.

  • Behaviours Aimed at Reducing Distress.

For people with OCD, the purpose of repetitive behaviours is either to prevent or reduce distress, or to prevent an unwanted event from happening. These behaviours, however, are either not realistically connected to the event or are very excessive. An individual, for example, may wash their hands 100 times per day to avoid being contaminated with germs. Although it is logical to wash hands to clean off germs, it is excessive and time-consuming to do it so often. An individual may also count up to 10 when the thought of contamination arises, which is not realistically connected with avoiding germs. Finally, people with OCD may perform a repetitive behaviour, such as praying, to avoid a feared event such as an accident.

Obsessions and/or compulsions can be time-consuming, cause significant distress, and negatively affect people’s ability to function effectively.

If you or someone you know has some or all of these symptoms, it may be due to OCD. Psychologists at EBT3 are trained in using psychological assessment tools to find out whether this is the case. They are also experienced in treating OCD and the related symptoms using approaches that have been proven to be effective, such as Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy.

For more information about OCD, or to find an experienced psychologist, please contact us.