Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

August 26, 2015| Health and Wellbeing /

In the film, “As Good as it Gets”, Jack Nicholson portrays an individual living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (otherwise known as OCD).  The disorder is characterised by obsessions and compulsions which typically take up significant amounts of time, cause distress and interfere with a person’s every-day activities and function.  Obsessions are intrusive, unwanted and persistent thoughts, images and impulses with themes such as contamination and danger to self or others.  Compulsions are repetitive ritualistic behaviours that the individual feels unable to resist and provide some relief from anxiety such as washing and checking.

OCD is a very treatable condition with a strong evidence base supporting both talking therapies (psychotherapy) and medication therapy (pharmacotherapy).

According to Dr Terry Chong, Adult Psychiatrist and Psychogeriatrician at Epworth Clinic Camberwell,  “OCD and Anxiety Disorders are extremely common, with the 2007 Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing showing 12 month prevalence of 11.8%.  Those affected by these conditions often suffer in silence with significant delay before seeking help due to stigma, embarrassment or not knowing that what they are experiencing is a treatable condition. “

The most commonly used psychotherapy is Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), in particular Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).  This is essentially a systematic process of “unlearning” the OCD connections that have developed.  It involves a very gradual process of being exposed to the obsession and not undertaking the compulsion.  Lower level obsessions are tackled first with the use of anxiety management strategies.  Recently, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has increasing evidence for its benefits in anxiety and this treatment focuses on practices such as Mindfulness.  Medications may also be used in the treatment of OCD with great effect.

Individual psychotherapy and medication management is offered by Epworth Clinic psychiatrists and group programs for OCD and anxiety are also available at Epworth Clinic using ACT or CBT.

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