How to Deal with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health problem that affects at least 1.2 % of the population.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in essence is an anxiety disorder that is characterised by intrusive obsessive thoughts usually about harm coming to oneself or someone else that trigger high levels of anxiety which the sufferer tries to deal with by engaging in rituals or compulsive behaviours.

The compulsive behaviours elevate the anxiety in the short term but over the longer term the sufferer begins to believe that they cannot cope without them so they become lock in a vicious cycle or obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

Obsessive Thoughts and Compulsive Behaviours

Obsessive thoughts commonly involve fear of contamination, punishment or doing harm to another person. Compulsive behaviours, developed by the sufferer to neutralise or counteract the fear and therefore the anxiety that it has triggered usually involve ritualised washing, checking, counting or hoarding.

Dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

The steps below have been developed by the Clinical Psychologists and Counselling Psychologist at The Harley Psychology & Therapy Group. They are based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Response Prevention which are the therapies shown to be the most effective in treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

They are intended to elevate mild symptoms, for those with moderate to severe symptoms they should be used in conjunction with formal therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), ideally Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which a qualified Clinical Psychologist or Counselling Psychologist and specialist in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

1. Understand your symptoms.

This is a vital first step in type of therapy including self help therapy. All feelings and behaviours are understandable if you consider their context, in the case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) the context is your thoughts.

Anyone who fears that they or someone else will come to harm and that they might be responsible for this will feel anxious and be motivated to do something about it. It is very important to start from a non self critical position, you are not odd, ill or mad, you have simply made a few information processing errors which have resulted in an overestimation of disaster and an underestimation or your ability to cope with this.
If you correct these errors your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) will dissipate and resolve.

Practical Step: Identify the thoughts that precede your feelings and compulsive behaviours.

2. Understand Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are a normal and necessary part of how the human mind works. Random thoughts that push their way into our conscious awareness enable us to be creative; they allow us to be innovative, pioneering, to forge new ground.

Random and intrusive thoughts enable us to be successful as a race, in a sense they have ensured our survival. Everyone has intrusive thoughts, the difference between individuals with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and those without is the meaning they attach to the intrusive thought, or the credence that they ascribe it.

Someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) will accept the intrusive thought as factual someone without will dismiss it. What makes someone vulnerable to viewing intrusive thoughts as an accurate and valid reflection of reality is low self esteem, self doubt and a belief that they are physically and or psychologically more fragile and vulnerable than others.

Practical Step: The intrusive thoughts that create the most distress for those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are unpleasant, inappropriate and catastrophic. A natural response to these thoughts is to try not to have them, however the more we try to resist a thought the more it will occur, so they way you try to cope with the intrusive thoughts actually makes them worse.

The following exercise illustrates this point:
For the next 30 seconds you can think of anything that you like but DO NOT think about pink elephants……………….
3. Possibility and Probability

Another pivotal factor in the development and maintenance of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is confusing possibility with probability. Most, if not all of the things that we fear are possible however the majority are very unlikely. Sufferer s of anxiety and in particular Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) confuse the two; this result is their worst case scenario becomes their reality.

Practical step: Identify the worst case scenario. Rate the possibility of it actually occurring (i.e. give it a percentage), be accurate in your rating by considering past experience.

4. Confidence and Anxiety

At the core of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the sufferer’s fear of anxiety, often referred to as ‘a fear of fear’. Understanding that we have evolved to feel anxiety and that it functions to protect us from danger is an important fact to bear in mind. Anxiety will not harm you; it will not drive you mad, regardless of how overwhelming it may feel at times, we have been designed by nature to withstand it.

Practical step: Build your confidence in tolerating anxiety by designing exposure tasks for yourself. Practice tolerating anxiety without engaging in compulsive behaviours, this will gradually build a belief that you can handle anxiety which will in turn reduce the belief that you need to engage in compulsive behaviours in order to be ok.

For more information or support contact The Harley Psychology & Therapy Group. Our Clinical Psychologist and Counselling Psychologists are currently offering the following therapy services:

· Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Richmond

· Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Clapham

· Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Fulham

· Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Marylebone

· Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Islington

· Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Canary Wharf

· Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Kings Cross

· Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Stamford

· Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in West Bridgford (Nottingham)

All therapy and counselling programmes incorporate Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and are individually tailored to ensure long lasting results.

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