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What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by persistent, intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors or mental acts performed in response to these thoughts. Individuals with OCD often experience distressing and unwanted thoughts, known as obsessions, which provoke anxiety or discomfort. In an attempt to alleviate this distress, they engage in ritualistic behaviors or mental activities, referred to as compulsions.


The obsessions and compulsions seen in OCD can vary widely, but common themes include fears of contamination, fears of harming oneself or others, concerns about order or symmetry, and unwanted taboo thoughts. The compulsive behaviors are intended to neutralize or prevent the feared outcome associated with the obsessions, but they typically provide only temporary relief and can become time-consuming, interfering with daily life.

Common Symptoms of OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterised by the presence of obsessions and compulsions. Here are some examples of common symptoms associated with OCD:


  1. Contamination Obsessions: Intense fears of dirt, germs, or contamination, leading to excessive handwashing, avoiding public places, or refusing to touch certain objects.

  2. Harm Obsessions: Intrusive thoughts about causing harm to oneself or others, often leading to repetitive behaviours to prevent harm or seeking reassurance.

  3. Symmetry and Order Obsessions: Extreme discomfort or anxiety when things are not symmetrical or in a particular order, resulting in the need to arrange or organise items repeatedly.

  4. Taboo Thoughts: Disturbing, unwanted thoughts involving taboo subjects, such as sexual or religious themes, which may lead to compulsions to neutralise the anxiety associated with these thoughts.

  5. Fear of Losing Control: Anxiety about losing control and performing harmful actions, leading to compulsive behaviours aimed at preventing such events.


  1. Checking: Repeatedly checking things, such as locks, appliances, or light switches, to ensure they are secure and prevent harm.

  2. Counting and Ordering: Engaging in rituals involving counting, arranging items in a specific order, or following a particular routine to reduce anxiety.

  3. Washing and Cleaning: Excessive handwashing or cleaning in response to fears of contamination, even when there is no realistic threat.

  4. Reassurance-Seeking: Constantly seeking reassurance from others to alleviate anxiety related to obsessions.

  5. Hoarding: Persistent difficulty discarding possessions, regardless of their value, leading to clutter and distress.

  6. Mental Compulsions: Performing mental rituals or repeating certain thoughts to neutralize obsessions, such as mentally counting or saying specific phrases.

  7. Avoidance: Avoiding situations, places, or people that trigger obsessive thoughts or situations where compulsive behaviors cannot be performed.

It's important to note that everyone with OCD may experience a unique combination of symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can vary. Additionally, individuals with OCD often recognise that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational, but they feel compelled to engage in these behaviours to alleviate anxiety.

The Effects of OCD

OCD can significantly impact an individual's quality of life, relationships, and overall functioning. The disorder often develops in adolescence or early adulthood, but it can begin at any age. The exact cause of OCD is not well-understood, and a combination of genetic, neurological, behavioural, cognitive, and environmental factors may contribute to its development.

How Counselling Can Help

Counseling can be beneficial for individuals of any age, including older individuals who are dealing with mental health challenges such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Here are several ways in which counseling can help older sufferers of OCD:

  1. Understanding and Education:  Providing information about OCD, helping the individual understand the nature of the disorder, its potential causes, and the available treatment options. Understanding the condition is often the first step toward managing and coping with it.

  2. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), is a highly effective therapeutic approach for OCD. We can work with you to identify and challenge obsessive thoughts, gradually expose them to anxiety-provoking situations, and help them resist engaging in compulsive behaviours.

  3. Skill Development: Learn coping skills and strategies to manage anxiety, stress, and intrusive thoughts. These skills can be practical tools for handling the challenges associated with OCD on a day-to-day basis.

  4. Support and Validation: The counselling process provides a supportive and non-judgmental space for individuals to express their feelings and concerns. Validation of their experiences can help reduce feelings of isolation and shame, which are common in OCD.

  5. Identifying Triggers and Patterns: Through counselling, individuals can explore and identify specific triggers that contribute to their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. Understanding these patterns is crucial for developing targeted interventions.

  6. Goal Setting and Progress Tracking: Counselling sessions can help to set realistic goals for managing their OCD symptoms and track their progress over time. Celebrating small victories can be motivating and encouraging.

Useful Links

Below is a list of links that can be of support and useful information on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Click on the logo image to open the link.


OCD UK - A charity based in the UK

OCD Action - The UK's largest OCD charity

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Link to the NHS OCD information page

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