OCD is a term that is commonly misused, and is not a general term for those with a preference for orderliness in life. It is a very distressing, all-consuming anxiety-related condition whereby a client will experience obsessional, ‘intrusive’ thoughts. Repetitive behaviours or rituals may be carried out in order to prevent a perceived harm or worry. Such behaviours can include avoidance of other people, places or objects, and seeking reassurance. Sometimes rituals will be internal mental counting, checking, blinking, etc. All of these are called ‘compulsions’.

Compulsions do alleviate some of the distress caused by the obsessions, but this is generally temporary and they recur following a trigger. Sometimes can be more of a ‘habit’, where the original obsessive fear and worry has been forgotten. In this instance, compulsions are often enacted to enable the individual to ‘feel right’; the key word being ‘feel’, in this instance.

It may be important to note that there is sometimes obvious correlation and logic between the obsession and compulsion, but other times there may not be.

There is good evidence that these difficulties can be overcome with psychological therapy, using an approach called ‘Exposure with Response Prevention’; a graded approach to facing the uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are characteristic of OCD.