What is OCD?
Most people have had experiences in their everyday lives where they feel compelled to do something or keep thinking obsessively about something - like returning home to check the doors are locked.
Obsessive Compulsory Disorder (OCD) is where a person can't control this sort of behaviour or thoughts, like their brain gets ‘stuck’ on a track it can't get off.
Around 2% of people have OCD at some point in their lives. This means most schools will have a few people with OCD and 90,000 (roughly) people in New Zealand will. Unlike many other anxiety disorders, OCD is equally likely in guys and girls, right now there aren't any stats for non-binary people.
Where can I go for help?
The first thing to do is speak with a family member or someone you trust.
Counselling & medication can help relieve the symptoms.
Sometimes information on general anxiety will be helpful too.
The Ministry of Health has a page on OCD you can check out here.
Your GP or local Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service may also be able to help you, you can find a map here.
Obsessions and Compulsions
An obsession is where a troubling thought goes through their head over and over. For example, are all the doors locked?
A compulsion is acting on obsessions. So if you're worried that the house might be unlocked, a compulsion would be heading home to check all the doors.
Helping someone with OCD
Plan extra time when you are leaving the house for obsessions and compulsions.
Check in at times, ask how they are and if they need anything.
Learn about their therapy or medication so you know what is going on.
Spread information about OCD to help inform and fight stigma.
Get more support, you can’t do it all on your own.
What causes OCD?
We don't entirely know but it is believed that OCD is both a chemical imbalance in the brain & partly inherited from a close family member.
It may be triggered by or worsen at times of stress. While it often begins when a person is still at school, it can occur at any time of life.
Checking and Washing
Checking happens because the person believes it will stop something awful from happening.
For example, a person may be very worried that someone will come into the house and therefore will check that the doors are locked again and again.
Washing usually comes from obsessive thoughts about things being dirty, germs/disease or bugs.
You may be frightened to touch things and feel anxious, frustrated or very uncomfortable.
The washing is usually more than what other people would do and takes up a lot of time.