Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety based disorder characterised primarily by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, worry or panic attacks; by repetitive behaviours aimed at reducing the associated anxiety; or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions (compulsions are the desire to do something repeatedly such as cleaning, counting numbers or switching lights off).
These compulsions literally overtake an OCD sufferer's life and can make it virtually impossible for them to lead a normal life. They may become unable to work, hold down a relationship or may even alienate their families.
It is estimated that over a million people in the UK suffer from OCD. David Beckham, one of the world's most recognisable celebrities, has admitted to having OCD tendencies and he spoke about it in the press several years ago.
OCD can effect anyone at any time in their lives - for most of us checking that we have switched the cooker off or lights can become habitual, but it is a fine line between obsession and compulsion. People with OCD believe that by acting out these compulsions they are dealing with their anxiety and that the anxiety will be alleviated by doing so.
Some OCD sufferers believe that if they don`t carry out their compulsions, those close to them (even a family pet) may die.
Common types of compulsions include cleaning, counting, checking, requesting or demanding reassurance, repeating phrases or sequences of words, and ensuring order and symmetry - some sufferers keep records of numbers or words.
Other conditions such as Trichotillomania (the urge to rid yourself of your bodily hair or pull hair out from your scalp for non-cosmetic reasons is now associated as a form of OCD) and Pathologic skin picking (picking at moles or pimples to rid yourself of them as they are seen as impurities).
So how can people with OCD be helped? Well psychotherapy and drugs can be used as well as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and ERP (exposure and response prevention therapy).
Hypnosis is used by therapists in some cases and works effectively by changing the mindset of the sufferer and easing the symptoms of anxiety.
Hypnotherapy aims to change the clients thinking so that they can take control of their OCD. This
is very significant, as many OCD sufferers feel that they are being controlled by OCD. In this sense, hypnotherapy can be seen as a psychological treatment for OCD. It can help to make the
distinction between what OCD sufferers feel is true (for example, the oven has been left on, or my hands are contaminated) and what is actually true (for example, the oven is off, my hands are clean
and not contaminated). This can be done in two ways. Firstly, hypnotherapy can encourage sufferers to consciously think in a different way. Secondly, it can change their thoughts and
feelings on an unconscious level. Both of these can help sufferers of OCD to take control of their OCD. In this sense, it is very similar to cognitive behavioural therapy (albeit on an
unconscious basis with suggestions coming from the Clinical Hypnotherapist).
As several recent television programmes have shown, OCD can affect anyone at any time and raising awareness can help prevent more people from being overtaken by their perhaps mild symptoms by showing them they can get help.
If you have symptoms or you know someone that does help is at hand.