Service provided by Dr. Corrick Woodfin
Member of the International OCD Foundation
What is OCD?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviours an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.
Most people have obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviours at some point in their lives, but that does not mean that we all have “some OCD.”
In order for a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder to be made, this cycle of obsessions and compulsions becomes so extreme that it consumes a lot of time and gets in the way of important activities that the person values.
Obsessions are thoughts, images or impulses that occur over and over again and feel outside of the person’s control.
Individuals with OCD do not want to have these thoughts and find them disturbing. In most cases, people with OCD realize that these thoughts don’t make any sense.
Obsessions are typically accompanied by intense and uncomfortable feelings such as fear, disgust, doubt, or a feeling that things have to be done in a way that is “just right.” In the context of OCD, obsessions are time consuming and get in the way of important activities the person values.
Compulsions are the second part of obsessive compulsive disorder.
These are repetitive behaviours or thoughts that a person uses with the intention of neutralizing, counteracting, or making their obsessions go away.
People with OCD realize this is only a temporary solution but without a better way to cope they rely on the compulsion as a temporary escape.
Compulsions can also include avoiding situations that trigger obsessions. Compulsions are time consuming and get in the way of important activities the person values.
What is Exposure and Response Prevention?
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) refers to a group of similar types of therapies used by mental health professionals for treating psychological disorders. The most important type of CBT for OCD being Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
The Exposure in ERP refers to exposing yourself to the thoughts, images, objects and situations that make you anxious and/or start your obsessions. While the Response Prevention part of ERP, refers to making a choice not to do a compulsive behaviour once the anxiety or obsessions have been “triggered.” While initially this is done under guidance eventually the individual learns to do their own ERP exercises to help manage their symptoms.