Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder. If you have OCD you might think or picture something bad happening and so to stop this happening you might feel the need to do things again and again, such as washing your hands or counting things. This might make you feel better for a short time but soon you will feel worried again and the horrible thoughts will come back.
OCD has three main stages that people experience, the thoughts, worries or images that pop into your mind are known as the obsessions. These might be worries about getting ill, or something happening to your family, you might also worry about your school work and not doing well enough. Sometimes people with OCD can also picture, or worry about harming themselves or other people without meaning or wanting to, it is important to remember that whilst they are very scary these obsessions are just thoughts and you are not a bad or mean person for thinking them.
Anxiety is the second part of OCD, this is how the obsessions make you feel, you might become very upset at a particular thought, and you might get very worried about it coming true. Some people also feel guilty or disgusted for thinking/picturing these thoughts.
The third part of OCD are the compulsions, these are the things you feel as though you have to do in order to prevent your obsessions from happening. Very often the compulsions are a repetitive action that you have to do again and again until you start to feel calmer, such as washing your hands, checking doors/windows are shut and locked or that the oven is off. Sometimes the compulsions are not actions but rather thoughts, you might have to repeat a certain word again and again or think good thoughts to get rid of the bad ones.
Because of how upsetting and scary the obsessions can feel many people with OCD start to avoid doing certain things or going certain places.
Around one in 50 people experience OCD, the obsessions and compulsions that occur will be different for everyone, how they affect your life will also be different. Your symptoms might feel quite mild and so not have much of an effect, they might however be very bad and disrupt your everyday life. You might struggle to concentrate and keep up with your studies in school, you might no longer enjoy things you used to such as seeing your friends and you might also avoid lots of places or situations that cause you to get anxious.
If you feel as though your OCD is becoming a problem and is disrupting your life it is important to talk to somebody about how you have been feeling and the thoughts you have been having. It is also important to consider talking to someone before your symptoms get any worse.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you can either talk to your GP or to someone in one of the Liverpool CAMHS Community Plus Hubs or visit your GP, they will be able to suggest lots of different things that might be able to help.
If your OCD and symptoms are mild, your GP might suggest a self-help book or video, this will help to give you advice as to how to cope with your symptoms and also to reduce your anxiety surrounding your obsessions.
If your OCD is already having a significant effect on your life then your GP might refer you for therapy, there are several different types of therapy that have been shown to help with OCD. One type is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a type of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that helps you to understand your thoughts and behaviours and to then think about things differently. ERP exposes you to situations or places that would usually make you feel anxious or trigger obsessional thoughts, although this might feel like a very big and frightening step your therapist will allow you to help choose the situations, it is usual to start small and then work your way up to the larger fears. When exposed your therapist will then help you to talk about how you are feeling, what you are feeling and why, you will then be shown an alternative way of thinking and so dealing with these feelings so you no longer feel the need to complete your compulsions.
Alternatively, if you are suffering from the obsessional thoughts of OCD but not the rituals or compulsions, cognitive therapy might be more appropriate. The therapist will help you change how you feel about your obsessional thoughts and to challenge these thoughts so that they no longer feel so overwhelming and frightening.
Occasionally your GP might feel that medication, alongside CBT therapy will help you to reduce your symptoms. These can quite often take several weeks to work, so don’t worry if you don’t feel better straight away. If you begin to feel worse however, or start to have thoughts about harming yourself it is very important you tell your GP as soon as possible.
Headmeds is a really great site with lots more information about medications, you’ll even be able to read about other young people’s experiences with mental health and how medication effected them.
There are also lots of great organisation in Liverpool that will be able to offer you and your family help and support with how to deal with OCD or anxiety and to get you feeling better. Take a look at our support pages.
If you are a child or young person, concerned about your own mental health or that of a friend and need somebody to talk to, people at Childline will be available at any time on 0800 11 11.