Nicole O’Connor takes a look at the anxiety disorder Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
With the stigma around mental health relaxing during the last number of years it has opened up the opportunity to learn about different types of mental health illnesses, and the recent documentary on RTE about living with OCD titled ‘OCD and Me’, it is the perfect time for one to learn exactly what the disorder entails.
 
What exactly is OCD?
 
OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and is a type of anxiety disorder that affects to 2 to 3% of the population in Ireland. 
 
There are two parts as such to OCD, obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted and often disturbing thoughts, images and  impulses that often just pop up in your thoughts which result in a great deal of anxiety and distress. 
 
Compulsions can be physical behaviours such as washing and checking or mental acts such as praying and counting that are carried out in order to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsessions.
 
There are a number of reasons someone might develop OCD, it may sometimes run in families, although there are no specific genes that have been linked to it.
 
OCD may be related to other conditions, such as tics (rapid, involuntary muscle contractions) and Tourette's Syndrome (causes a person to make repetitive movements or sounds).
 
Brain abnormalities are not thought to be a reason as to why someone may develop OCD thought  although some brain imaging studies have suggested that some people with the disorder have increased activity or blood flow in areas of the brain that  are known to deal with  emotions and the area which deals and responds to those emotions.
 
It is not believed that stress alone can cause OCD, however a particular stressful or upsetting situation or event could possibly trigger the condition in someone who may already be inclined to act in a similar fashion.
 
If you think you may have OCD, don't panic or feel embarrassed it is completely treatable and you can recover so it's important to get diagnosed, you should visit your GP as soon as possible.
 
They will then be able to help you figure out exactly what's going on and help you pick the best form of treatment for you.
 
It is important to remember that OCD can affect anyone at any time, age and gender do not come into consideration. Therefore it is important to be aware of the fact that your GP can help you and give you the right advice if you think you have OCD.