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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a serious anxiety-related condition where a person experiences frequent intrusive, unwelcome and often obsessional thoughts, which are often followed by repetitive impulses, urges or compulsions.
According to OCD UK the illness affects 1.2% of the population, from young children to adults, regardless of gender, social or cultural background. The condition can be so debilitating and disabling that the World Health Organisation (WHO) once ranked OCD in the top ten of the most disabling illnesses of any kind, in terms of both lost earnings and diminished quality of life.
Based on current estimates for the UK population, there are potentially around 741,000 people living with OCD at any one time. 50% of all these cases fall into the severe category, with less than a quarter being classed as mild cases.
There is a common perception that OCD is merely repeated hand washing or checking light switches. However, generally OCD sufferers have obsessions in the form of repeated and unwanted uncontrollable thoughts, doubts, worries and fears. They effect the sufferer’s ability to function normally on a day-to-day basis. Whilst people with OCD know that their thoughts are irrational they feel that the only way to relieve the anxiety caused by them is to carry out the compulsive behaviour.
Compulsions are repetitive physical behaviours and actions or mental thought rituals that are performed over and over again in an attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessional thoughts. Sufferers often avoid places or situations which prevent triggering the obsessive thoughts and this behaviour is also considered to be a compulsion. Unfortunately, any relief that the compulsive behaviours provide is only temporary and usually reinforces the original obsession which contributes to the gradual worsening cycle of the OCD. The sufferer often believes that something awful will happen, either to themselves or others, if the action is not performed. Many OCD sufferers have an overinflated sense of responsibility to prevent harm and an exaggerated perceived threat about intrusive thoughts they have. These fuel the compulsive behaviours because the person with OCD often feels responsible for preventing bad things from happening.
There are four main categories of OCD although there are many forms of the illness within each category:
Whilst OCD is indeed a chronic condition, it is treatable. Over time most people can learn to stop performing their compulsive rituals and to decrease the intensity of their obsessional thoughts. Receiving appropriate support and being committed to the personalised treatment plan is the key to long term recovery.
Hypnotherapy helps to reduce anxiety, can identify the root cause of the OCD, enable the person to change their perception of the perceived risks at a sub-conscious level and embed healthier approaches to coping with everyday living. In addition to hypnotherapy other therapeutic approaches which may also be used includes cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, thought field therapy (tapping) and spiritual healing.
OCD clients typically take much longer to treat than just anxiety and/or depression. Based on clients that I have treated to date OCD clients should be prepared to have at least eight weekly sessions, these will then be increased to fortnightly then monthly as deemed necessary. It is not uncommon for OCD sufferers to continue having support for up to one year.