What is OCD?

OCD is often down played. It is not uncommon to hear people describe themselves as a bit ‘OCD’. In reality OCD refers to a serious and complex illness called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in which people frequently experience obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours that can be very distressing and have a big impact on people’s everyday lives.

Obsessive thoughts are unwanted and unpleasant thoughts, feelings or images that repeat over and over again.

Compulsive behaviours are the actions or rituals that people feel the need to carry out in order to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessive thoughts or to prevent the ‘bad thing’ in their thoughts from happening.

Many children and young people have mild obsessions and rituals, this is normal and is often a temporary reaction to stress, change or uncertainty in their lives. However, if these thoughts or behaviours start to cause distress or interfere/disrupt daily life then it may be a sign that OCD is developing. If so you should talk to your GP/family doctor, school nurse or Counsellor or someone else who can help you find specialist mental health support if this is needed.

More info: https://www.ocduk.org/young-peoples-ocd-guide

What causes OCD?

OCD doesn’t have one clear cause. Genetics, Environmental factors, family history and Brain chemistry may all play a part in people developing OCD.

How do I know if I have OCD?

People with OCD will experience a arrange of repetitive thoughts, feelings and images (AKA Obsessions) that they can’t get out of their head and that make them feel distressed or frightened.

Common obsessions include:

  • Fears about dirt, germs, contamination or catching or spreading disease
  • Worries about bad things happening to yourself or people close to you
  • Fears you will harm someone else or commit a crime – without having any desire or intention to do so
  • Unwanted sexual or violent thoughts and feelings
  • Worries and beliefs related to religion or sexuality

It is important to note that these thoughts are not based in reality and people with OCD generally do not act on their thoughts. However, they often feel the need to carry out repeated actions or rituals to relieve the stress and anxiety around bad things happening. These are called Compulsions.

Common compulsions include:

  • Repeated handwashing or cleaning – often until the skin is raw
  • Performing a task over and over again
  • Repeated checking – that doors are locked, the oven or electrical appliances are turned off for example
  • Counting or saying things under the breath
  • Ordering and Arranging things
  • Avoiding places or events or routes
  • Asking for reassurance from others
  • Neutralising thoughts – to counter the obsessive thoughts

What helps?

People carry out compulsions in order to relieve their Anxiety or to prevent them from coming true. However, the relief is only temporary and soon the cycle of thoughts and compulsions starts over again. Over time people feel the need to repeat their compulsions more and more to find relief.

These cycles can start to take over people’s lives, disrupting, school, work, hobbies, friendships and relationships as people start having feelings of shame, guilt, disgust and self-hate which can progress into Depression, self-harm and thoughts of suicide.

Talking to someone about how you are feeling is the most important thing. It can help you to feel better, and It may also help you to ask for professional support if you need it.

A diagnosis of OCD is normally made by a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist or nurse. If you are diagnosed with OCD you may be offered a talking therapy such as CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy). This will help you to understand the illness and to begin to break the OCD cycle and take control – by learning strategies to face your anxieties and resist the compulsions for example. Your therapist will support you to do this at your own pace, they may also involve your family or friends/carers so that they can learn how to help you to start managing your symptoms at home.

You might be offered medication in combination with therapy, for some people this is the most effective treatment. Medication for OCD is normally an anti-depressant which boosts levels of serotonin in the brain. You can find out more about medication for OCD on the Headmeds site.

How can I help myself?

There are things you can do to help yourself feel better. These could include:

  • Reducing stress
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Avoiding drugs and alcohol
  • Using mindfulness and relaxation techniques

Talking to other people who have had similar experiences – try the OCD Youth Site or forums such as Kooth.com or The Mix

Outlook South West

Who are they?

Outlook South West are an organisation who support young people aged 16 and over within Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly with their mental health issues through Psychological Therapies.

What Mental Health conditions do they support?

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Antenatal and Postnatal Depression

What services do they provide?

  • Psychological Therapies
  • Patient-centred Therapy
  • Psycho-educational courses & groups
  • Individual one-to-one therapy (i.e. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Online therapy (i.e. SilverCloud)
  • Telephone CBT

When are they open?

Mondays to Fridays 9am - 5pm

Where?

Their therapies are provided throughout GP surgeries and their locality offices across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

How do I refer?

Referrals from professionals and individuals can be made Online (https://gateway.mayden.co.uk/referral-v2/01d3ec67-a688-4700-8b1e-ad3acacabf07), by email (OSWLLP.Referrals@nhs.net) or by Telephone (01208 871905)

Myth buster #1

Myth: People with OCD wash their hands all the time and are ‘germophobes’

Fact: Compulsive hand washing is only one type of OCD symptom and only about a quarter of people with OCD have it. There are many other less visible symptoms that cause great distress, for example believing you may have run over someone without realising it, or believing you have to count to a certain number to stop something terrible from happening.

Myth buster #2

Myth: Everyone is a bit OCD

Fact: Lots of people say they are OCD when really they mean they like to keep things clean and organised. In reality OCD is a serious and very distressing illness. People with OCD might have cleanliness rituals but they don’t enjoy them, they do it to relieve frightening thoughts and feelings of anxiety. Someone who scrubs their hands may be doing so because they truly believe that if they fail to wash them properly, they will catch or pass on an illness that will kill those that they love.

Useful resources

OCD Youth

Connect with other young people through real life stories, blogs and forums

OCD UK 

Download this guide to OCD written for young people

RPSYCH

Detailed information from  the Royal College of Psychiatrists

Need help now?

If you need to speak to someone urgently call your GP or family doctor!

or

NHS 24/7 helpline : 0800 038 5300
Childline up to 19 yrs: 0800 1111
The Samaritans: 116 123
In an emergency go to A&E or call 999