Obsessive compulsive disorder is an anxiety based condition characterised by unhelpful thoughts that lead to fear and worry (obsessions) and repetitive behaviours which are aimed at reducing the accompanying anxiety (compulsions).


Obsessions are thoughts that show up and persist despite the person's best efforts to confront them. These thoughts can be distressing to the person, particularly when the thoughts have an impulsive or violent content. Sometimes these thoughts can evolve into images where the sufferer may have the image of harming a family member, friend or someone they meet in the street. This obsessional thought will then lead to feelings of severe anxiety and distress for the person. Treatment should be sought at this stage to prevent further distress and anxiety.


Compulsions are performed primarily to ease the level of anxiety being felt by the person in specific situations. For example to use a common occurrence of 'door checking' or hand washing. These behaviours are in response to anxiety about their home being broken into and the fear of contamination respectively. Compulsions can occur across the whole spectrum of human activity/behaviour.


Treatment for this presentation using CBT and or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can be very effective. Using ACT, where we learn to live in the present moment is helpful, because all anxiety based presentations worry about future for example; 'What will happen if I don't wash my hands?'. Acceptance and diffusion of thoughts and feelings are worked on in therapy. In the course of treatment, Life Values are identified as an important aspect of therapy so that the client is encouraged to live a valued and fulfilling life, notwithstanding their present difficulties (For more information on ACT, click here go to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)


Length of treatment depends on the severity of the presentation, however, the course of therapy can be delivered in 3-4 sessions. A more sustained level of support may be needed over a longer period of follow-up sessions in the more entrenched presentations.

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