OCD Counselling & Treatment

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition where people have obsessional thoughts followed by compulsives urges. These obsessions can be intense, and typically the only way a person can relieve these intrusive thoughts is to repeat an action until they are quelled.

This anxiety-related illness affects around 1.2% of the UK's population, and approximately 740,000 people are thought to suffer with OCD at any one time. Research suggests 50% of sufferers endure severe OCD symptoms, while 25% only experience mild symptoms.

A common perception of OCD is that sufferers feel compelled to excessively wash their hands or constantly check that doors and windows are locked. In reality, OCD is a far more complex illness and can make day-to-day living very difficult for the sufferer and those close to them. One of the biggest challenges for family and friends is understanding the illness, but it can also take a toll on relationships. It is possible, however, for people with OCD to learn ways to better manage the condition.

On this page the illness will be explored in more depth, including OCD symptoms, what obsessions and compulsions are, and effective treatment options.

OCD symptoms :

Obsessive compulsive disorder isn't a one-size-fits-all illness; it affects every individual differently. There are however consistent patterns of behaviour and thoughts that are caused by OCD. These are outlined below to help you understand the core symptoms and to help you determine whether or not you (or someone close to you) may have the condition.

The four key behaviours that contribute to OCD are :

1. Obsession - An intrusive, persistent and uncontrollable thought that enters your mind.

2. Anxiety - You start feeling stressed and anxious due to the obsession.

3. Compulsion - You find a compulsive need to exercise repetitive acts or behaviours because of the stress or anxiety that the obsession has caused.

4. Temporary relief - A temporary relief from the stress or anxiety is gained from the compulsive behaviour. This cycle repeats when the obsession returns, usually soon after.

If you relate to these symptoms and are worried you may be suffering from OCD, you are advised to visit your doctor for a formal diagnosis.

Causes of OCD :

The overall cause of this anxiety disorder is unknown, but there are multiple related factors that might increase the chances of obsessive compulsive disorder developing.

Stress - Stressful situations and traumatic life events can cause OCD. Approximately one in three cases are caused by stress.

Genes - In some cases OCD is inherited; passed down from one generation to the next.

Life changing scenarios - OCD tendencies can occur when increased responsibility gets too much. A birth of a child, a death of a loved one or a new job are the kind of scenarios that change one's life enough to develop obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms.

Personality - For meticulously organised people who are already methodically cataloguing their life possessions, symptoms of OCD might go unnoticed. These symptoms can get out of hand - if it goes too far, they can develop the full anxiety disorder and should seek help.

Biological changes - Small changes to the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin might play a role in triggering OCD. This is one of the reasons why medication is thought to help sufferers better manage their condition.

Ways of thinking - Depending on the individual's moral outlook on life, thoughts like 'what would happen if I stepped in front of that train?' or 'I might harm my partner' are usually quickly dismissed. But if someone has an extremely high sense of responsibility and morality, they might feel that it's their fault these involuntary thoughts come into their head, which makes the thoughts more likely to return.

OCD treatment :

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a treatable medical condition, and counselling in particular has proven useful for helping sufferers to take back some control over their OCD symptoms. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is often deemed the most helpful form of therapy in this circumstance.


Cognitive behavioural therapy is a talking therapy that aims to help overcome problems by recognising and changing the way an individual thinks and behaves.

The therapy looks to teach the person that it isn't the thoughts that are the major problem; it's what the individual makes of those thoughts and how they act on them. This is the key to recovering from OCD.

There are two types of CBT for OCD - cognitive therapy and exposure response therapy.

Cognitive therapy (CT)

Cognitive therapy is a psychological therapy that tries to change your response to your thoughts, rather than trying to get rid of them. This can be helpful if you have worrying, intrusive thoughts, but do not perform any actions or rituals to neutralise them.

Exposure and response prevention (ERP)

Exposure and response prevention is a way to stop anxieties and behaviours from getting stronger. The longer you are exposed to your fear, or stressful situation, over time you become used to the setting and the need to perform compulsive actions is naturally neutralised.


Even if you are not depressed, antidepressants can help moderate obsessions and compulsions. According to research, over half of people with OCD improve after taking medication. Unfortunately, if you stop taking medication, there is around a 50% chance of OCD symptoms returning. However, if you combine medication with CBT for OCD, it is much less likely to return.