Obsessive-compulsive disorder

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterised by the presence of obsessions (unwanted and intrusive thoughts, images or urges which repeatedly and involuntarily enter the individual's mind) and/or compulsions (repetitive behaviours or more covert mental acts which the individual feels driven to perform and are not inherently pleasurable, unlike impulsive acts such as gambling or shopping).

Common obsessions include:

  • Contamination from dirt, germs, viruses, bodily fluids, chemicals, sticky substances or dangerous materials
  • Fear of harm to the self or others
  • Concern with order/symmetry
  • Somatic/physical concerns
  • Religious or blasphemous thoughts
  • Sexual thoughts
  • Urge to hoard possessions
  • Violent or aggressive thoughts1

Common compulsions include:

  • Checking
  • Cleaning and washing
  • Repeating acts
  • Mental compulsions such as counting
  • Ordering, symmetry or exactness
  • Hoarding or collecting1

Assistance from a psychologist is recommended when the symptoms of OCD are causing significant distress, or are interfering with relationships, daily work or social functioning.2

Psychological assessment for OCD broadly consists of an investigation into the context of its development, the nature of obsessions, compulsions and avoidance behaviours, level of family support,  degree of impairment to the client, goals for and expectations of treatment, and readiness to change obsessions or compulsive behaviours.3

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) with a focus on exposure and response prevention (ERP) is considered the optimal psychotherapeutic treatment for OCD.4

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  • Contributor(s)
    APS Member Resources Team

    Dr Clare Rees
    MPsych (Clinical and Health), PhD
    Associate Professor
    School of Psychology and Speech Pathology
    Faculty of Health Sciences
    Curtin University
  • Publish date
    24 Jun 2013
  • References

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