• Ashleigh Kendall

OCD- signs, stressors & how to get help

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a serious, frightening and debilitating condition for those who live with it. Classified as an anxiety disorder, OCD is characterised by mental health professionals as experiencing obsessive and uncontrollable thoughts which require the sufferer to perform deliberate and repetitive actions in order to ease their distress. OCD is more than having normal minor compulsive thoughts, rather it disrupts and takes over the persons life restricting them from being able to life their life as they normally would be able to. 

Even if the impulses don’t seem to make sense and seem unnecessary, failure to perform these tasks and rituals will often lead to the sufferer believing something bad will happen to them or people they love. OCD works so that the person affected will feel some relief after performing the required task, before the anxiety returns which in turn leads to the repetition of compulsive behaviour to further alleviate the anxiety.

Some common stressors or themes around OCD include:

  • Anxiety/ fear of contamination/ dirt/ germs

  • Order and symmetry

  • Fear of losing items/ not having everything you need

  • Intense fear of losing control - harming yourself or others

  • Obsessive focus on religion/ spiritual beliefs/ morals/ superstitions

  • Unusual and intrusive thoughts and images around sex, violence/ harm and suicide

  • These common stressors are accompanied by obsessive behaviours in order to relieve the anxiety around these themes, some behaviours include the following:

  • Excessive rechecking of things, e.g. - locked doors, appliances, things are as they should be

  • Counting and repetition of behaviours

  • Excessive washing or cleaning

  • Hoarding

  • Constantly ordering things in a specific way, if they aren't arranged as per then the person will feel intense anxiety until it is.

  • Greater and more repetitive than worries about real life issues

  • Time consuming and distressing in nature

These just outline some obsessive behaviours, if you or someone you know are experiencing distress and disruption in their life and feel they are held prisoner by their believes then try and reach out for help. A good start is by going to visit a doctor and discussing your experiences, then the doctor will be able to put you in touch with the right mental health professional who can help.

Your health professional will consider some factors before a diagnosis, this includes considerations such as if you have obsessions, if the obsessions dictate compulsive behaviour and how much these control and dictate your life. 

Once you have detailed how your compulsive behaviours are impacting your life, then your healthcare provider will be able to recommend treatment to help you overcome these and regain control of your life. Usually this will involve therapy coupled with medication. Used together there is a very high chance of recovery compared to one of those options used alone. 

Where to get help

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.

Healthline: 0800 611 116 (available 24 hours, 7 days a week and free to callers throughout New Zealand, including from a mobile phone).

0800 14 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389), 24 hour support.

“FIXATE” is a facebook support group for individuals and carers of those with OCD