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OCD is a mental disorder characterised by obsessions and compulsions that take up at least an hour a day – but usually longer – and cause significant distress and disruption to everyday life.
Obsessions are persistent, uncontrollable thoughts, impulses, or images that are intrusive, unwanted and disturbing. They cause anxiety, distress or other negative emotions (disgust; guilt) that significantly interfere with normal life. A person who doesn’t have OCD is able to filter out the anxiety provoking doubts and intrusive thoughts they experience but people with OCD can’t stop thinking about and feeling distressed by their concerns or intrusive thoughts.
Individuals who have OCD feel compelled to perform repetitive actions called compulsions or rituals. These can be connected to an obsession, e.g., excessive hand washing for people with an overwhelming fear of contamination; repeated checking in someone with an obsessive fear of harm happening to their family; or extreme neatness in someone who is concerned about having things arranged or balanced in a specific way. Sometimes there is no clear, logical link between the compulsion and the obsessional concern, touching 4 times or other ritualistic, repeated behaviours. Compulsions are frequently overt but may also be carried out mentally, such as mental praying, counting or reviewing actions.
Although most people with OCD realise the risk associated with their obsessions is very low, the severity of their anxiety is extreme and in their experience the only way to relieve their anxiety or discomfort is to perform the compulsions. Unfortunately, any relief provided by the compulsions is only temporary and ends up reinforcing the obsession, creating a gradually-worsening cycle of OCD behaviour.
Far too often, people with OCD suffer in silence, unaware that they can learn to reduce and manage their symptoms, the distress they cause and their impacts on their life. While OCD is often a long lasting disorder, the appropriate treatment or combination of treatments can provide significant benefits and allow people with OCD to lead rewarding lives. Fortunately, research is continually providing new information to improve our understanding and treatment of OCD. As a result the prognosis for people who suffer from OCD is more hopeful than ever before.
About Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
People with Body Dysmorphic Disorder report being obsessed with imagined or slight flaws in their appearance to a degree that these thoughts become overwhelming and interfere with the quality of their life and functioning. In addition to excessive thinking about their appearance, people with BDD often engage in repeated checking of the particular part of their body of concern or other behaviours such as frequent mirror checking, reassurance seeking, excess medical consultation or even unnecessary plastic surgery to reduce their obsession and distress. The concerns about appearance causes increasing stress which often results in depression and severe anxiety.
About Body-focused Repetitive Behaviours (BFRBs)
Body-focused Repetitive Behaviours is the name for a number of related problems including hair-pulling disorder (Trichotillomania), skin-picking disorder and nail-biting disorder. These problems are complex disorders which result in sufferers compulsively touching, pulling or picking at their hair, or body in ways that result in physical damage such as bald patches and tissue damage as well as high levels of psychological distress, shame and embarrassment.
Developments and research into treatment for BFRBs indicate that both tailored psychological, behaviourally focused intervention and medication can be helpful for many sufferers.