Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder that has been recognised since the 14th Century. Essentially OCD features recurrent obsessions or compulsions that are severe enough to be time consuming or cause distress or impairment. The obsessions or compulsion happen repeatedly and cause significant dysfunction; limiting a person’s ability to learn, work and make relationships. 

  • In Australia, close to 3 per cent of people have OCD, affecting more than 500,000 Australians.  
  • Globally, OCD has been recognized as the fourth most common psychiatric disorder, after phobias, substance abuse and major depression.  
  • OCD can occur at any age, although symptoms seem to develop fully for the first time in adolescence. 
  • The cause of OCD is unknown although ongoing research has identified that the brains of people with OCD work differently than those people without the disorder. 

The symptoms of OCD can be broken down into two areas:  

  • Recurrent obsession: people with OCD experience intrusive and obsessive thought patterns that cause anxiety or distress.  
  • Compulsive behaviours: purposeful and repetitive behaviours that are performed in order to neutralize or prevent the distress caused by the obsessive thought pattern.  

There are many common misconceptions about OCD and it is important to be aware that rituals, avoidance behaviours, superstitions, and nervous habits people display are not OCD.  

OCD is diagnosed when obsessive thoughts or behaviours become time consuming, thereby preventing the ability to learn, work and grow, creating major stress and anxiety.


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