Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety condition that affects 2% of Australian’s each year.

It is a very varied condition, and each individual’s experience of obsessive compulsive disorder will be different. Made up of one or both of obsessions and compulsions, OCD can be a debilitating and overwhelming experience.

The presence of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can be co-occurring with other mental health conditions such as depression, generalised anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder. Although the condition can emerge at any stage of life, a significant proportion of individuals with OCD begin recognising their symptoms during adolescence.

Obsessions refer to the intrusive and often distressing thoughts that are difficult to control – for example, intrusive sexual or violent thoughts, fears about harm, illness or wellbeing, or irrational concerns regarding hygiene. Compulsions are often the outward expression or actions provoked by obsessive thoughts, however you can have obsessions without compulsions.

The intrusive thoughts of OCD can be relentless, and have significant impacts on an individual’s ability to concentrate, focus on tasks and responsibilities or socialise easily. These thoughts can also lead to sleep disruptions, as the individual may struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep due to distressing dreams. In addition, individuals with OCD may be predisposed to other mental health conditions such as depression or generalised anxiety disorder, as the intrusive thoughts may promote emotions of shame, guilt or fear.

There are a diverse number of contributing factors and pathways to the development of obsessive compulsive disorder. Similar to other anxiety disorders, obsessive thoughts may arise from neurobiological imbalance, personal circumstances and experiences or even hereditary or genetic factors.  Compulsive behaviours may then arise as a way to relieve these anxious feelings.

Therapy and recovery for OCD requires a multidisciplinary approach, in which individuals are able to relieve symptoms while learning effective coping strategies. This can be achieved through a combination of medical support and psychiatric care, psychological and emotional counselling, nutritional support and physical exercise.

infographic of OCD symptoms

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a manageable condition, and with the correct professional support, recovery is always possible.