Obsessive compulsive disorder

What is obsessive compulsive disorder?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder which is dominated by obsessive (or intrusive) thoughts or images in the mind, and compulsive behaviours, such as rituals and urges to respond to the thoughts. There is normally this overwhelming feeling of responsibility, that if a compulsion is not carried out then something bad will happen.

An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters your mind. It can cause the feeling of anxiety, worry, disgust or unease

A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that you feel you need to carry out to try to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought.  It could be something like repeatedly checking a door is locked, repeating a specific phrase in your head or checking how your body feels.

For example, someone with an obsessive fear of their house being burgled may feel they need to check all the windows and doors are locked several times before they can leave the house.

Many people experience minor obsessions where they worry about leaving the gas on, or if the door is locked, and compulsions such as check doors and windows before leaving the house.  These don’t significantly interfere with daily life, and generally short-lived.

OCD has a big impact on how you live your life:

Disruption to your day-to-day life  Repeating compulsions can take up a lot of time and energy, and you might avoid certain situations that trigger your OCD, which can can have an impact on your work and home life

Impact on your relationships  OCD can result in feelings of doubt, anxiety and fear, which can affect how you interact with people around you, therefore have an impact on your relationship with others

Feeling ashamed or lonely  The nature of the obsessive thoughts my cause you to feel ashamed and unable to speak to anyone about them. This can make you feel very isolated and lonely

Impact on your physical health  OCD causes anxiety which includes experiencing a stream of physical sensations, this can have a knock-on affect on your physical health

What are the causes of OCD?


Cognitive and behavioural therapy (CBT) helps us to understand our issues by breaking them into five smaller parts – Situation, Thoughts, Emotions, Physical Sensations and Behaviour. These five parts are normally interconnected and maintain the problem.

Using this CBT model, we can explain some of the common signs of OCD:

How can we help?

OCD is like a bully, the strong thoughts in the mind can make a person feel that they need to act on it to make it stop, and if they do nothing, the thoughts will stay and keep on bullying.  People give into the obsessive thoughts by carrying out their compulsions, however this offers a temporary relief only, until the thought return next time.

You can overcome OCD and break the cycle by doing things differently and thinking differently.  This is done by challenging the obsessive thoughts, use relaxation techniques to calm the anxiety symptoms, and do things differently to not give into the OCD bully.

Mindset Rethink can help you to:

  • Increase awareness and understanding of OCD
  • Identify and set specific and manageable goals
  • Explain the CBT model to you and how it can help with OCD
  • Evaluate and challenge your obsessive thoughts
  • Practice mindfulness to control the focus of your attention
  • Exposure and response prevention
  • Generate a list of feared situations and plan for graded exposure work
  • Stress management
  • Promote general well-being

Complementary therapy techniques

OCD can cause a great deal of anxiety, which can result in you focusing on the obsessive thoughts even more.  The more you focus on the unhelpful obsessive thoughts, the more likely you are to carry out the compulsions, and the vicious cycle is maintained.  If the physical symptoms of anxiety are reduced, your emotions are likely to be less distressing, therefore it allows you to have more head space to challenge the obsessive thoughts, and not react to them.

You can practice mindfulness to train your mind and control your focus of attention, and to be in the present moment.  For more information on mindfulness click here.  

You may want to schedule specific time for mindfulness on a daily basis, and with regular practice, you will notice that your physical symptoms of anxiety reduces and you start to feel more calm.


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