OCD week of action: 19th-25th February 2018

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) week of action occurs on 19th–25th February this year, and is a campaign week to take action against OCD, as well as change people's perceptions of the disorder.

What is OCD?

OCD is a clinically recognised disorder, affecting 1-2% of the population. Although many use the term ‘a bit OCD-ish’ lightly to describe those who have slight obsessive tendencies with regards to cleaning or perfection, OCD can actually occur in a much more severe form.

What are the symptoms of OCD?

People with OCD experience recurrent thoughts and/or behaviours that are negative and intrusive. They will have obsessions or compulsions, and will very often have both occurring together. Obsessions. These are involuntary thoughts, doubts, images or urges that are frequent, difficult to control, and upsetting or distressing. These obsessions are nearly always inconsistent with an individual’s values. Common obsessions include, but are not limited to: fears about dirt, germs and contamination; fears of acting out violent or aggressive thoughts or impulses; fears that things are not safe, for example household appliances. Compulsions. To reduce the anxiety of the obsession, or feel just right, an individual may carry out a compulsion - these compulsions are repetitive and stereotyped actions that the person feels obliged to carry out, and performing the compulsion causes the urge to perform it again to become stronger each time. Common compulsions include, but are not limited to: excessive washing and cleaning; checking; repetitive actions such as touching, counting, arranging; mental rituals such as repeating words or phrases.

Why is OCD a problem?

The types of thoughts that people with OCD have are those that nearly everyone experiences, such as double checking the front door. The difference is that whilst many people can ignore these thoughts, those with OCD cannot and they give them undue attention. This causes issues as the thoughts become frequent and distressing, and overtime they can also affect all areas of a person’s life, with their family and social life as well as their job often being affected. OCD brings challenges to those suffering from it, two of the greatest being the widely held belief that OCD is just a mild problem, and the general stigma associated with mental health disorders. This stigma is also one of the main reasons people delay seeking help with OCD, and OCD has been called the ‘secretive disorder’ as those with OCD can appear to function perfectly. Other reasons people delay seeking help are the fear they will be committed to a secure institution, and that they were unaware that their disorder is a recognised condition with effective treatments. There is an average delay of twelve years between the onset of OCD and treatment being received, and over half of adults who receive help for OCD already had it as children. Unfortunately, even when someone has gone to a healthcare or educational professional, many have not received treatment because there is still high amount of these professionals who do not understand or recognise OCD, meaning they are thus unable to diagnose it.

How can OCD be treated?

Although there may be professionals unable to diagnose OCD, those suffering from OCD are not alone - there is support available. OCD Action, the national charity for people affected by OCD, can be contacted on their helpline number (0845 3906232) at any time. There are also local and online support groups, as well as the OCD Action supportive community forum. As OCD can affect not just the individual but also their family, social and work life, it can take a giant toll on those around them. Mind have a number of ways that those supporting people with OCD can help them. There are also treatments available on the NHS for OCD that have proven effective for most: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and medication. If you or someone close to you is experiencing symptoms of OCD, you can also contact our helpline number for support at any time.

How can you get involved?

There are a number of ways you can get involved with supporting the OCD Action charity, including: Fundraising. You can hold a cake sales or raffle, whether in your community or in your workplace, or you can take up a challenge such as cycling or climbing a mountain. You could also suggest making OCD Action your employer’s ‘Charity of the Year’ if they do not already have one. Volunteering. There are plenty of different volunteer roles available at OCD Action, including Helpline Volunteers and Awareness Champions. You can find out more about the volunteer roles here. To find out more about how you can get involved with OCD Action, there is more information available on their website.

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