Obsessions, Compulsions & OCD

What are obsessions & compulsions?

ocd @ auckland therapy : counselling and psychotherapyObsessions and compulsions are often a sign of underlying stress and anxiety. Many people will develop some obsessive or compulsive symptoms when life isn't going so well (tidying, ordering, checking, cleaning, worrying, etc.). These symptoms are the body's way of relieving tension and the mind's way of gaining a sense of control.

Such symptoms can be a useful warning signal that life is out of balance and needs a bit of attention. These will normally respond well to general counselling or psychotherapy that address the underlying stress and anxiety. Often what is most useful is some help to reflect on where you have come from and where you are heading as well as how best to balance the many demands that life makes on us with our needs, hopes and fears.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder which is thought to occur in approximately 1-2% of the general population. If you are suffering from OCD, you will be experiencing the following:

  • Obsessions: unwanted intrusive thoughts, images or urges that cause a lot of distressing emotions and feel outside of your control.
  • Compulsions: Behaviours or mental acts that you are driven to perform repeatedly to alleviate anxiety caused by obsessions.

Many people can experience obsessions and compulsions without meeting the criteria for OCD. To qualify for the diagnosis of OCD the obsessions will be causing intense distress and may be taking up significant time or causing you to avoid important activities.

There are many themes that OCD can take such as:

Harm/Responsibility: Fears of being responsible for harming others (can include driving fears, poisoning others, transmitting HIV, causing accidents etc).

Contamination: Fear of dirt, germs, chemicals, lead, asbestos or items that may feel 'emotionally contaminated'.

Violent/Suicidal: Fears of acting on an impulse to violently harm others or fears of wanting to commit suicide (this is different from suicidal ideation caused by depression).

Sexual: Unwanted sexual thoughts, sensations or urges about sexual orientation or forbidden acts including pedophilia, incest, beastiality etc.

Relationship: Fears of not loving or trusting your partner, friends, relatives, being attracted to others etc.

Moral/Religious (Scrupulosity): excessive concerns with behaving in a right/wrong, immoral or blasphemous way.

Perfectionism: excessive concern about evenness, exactness, symmetry, performing tasks perfectly, making mistakes or forgetting something important.

Existential: excessive preoccupation with death/existence or one's role in the universe or 'grand scheme'.

Hyperawareness: excessive preoccupation with bodily or mental functions (such as swallowing, breathing, blinking, body positioning, thinking, health concerns, hearing noises etc)

Superstitious: excessive fears of certain numbers, colours, black cats, walking under ladders etc.

The causes of OCD are not yet known but genetics are very likely to play a role.

Find a therapist

Mild Obsessive & Compulsive Symptoms

All of our team are experienced in working with mild obsessive & compulsive symptoms as part of broader stress, anxiety or other life issues. See a map of Therapist Locations or find Auckland Therapist by suburb or learn more about the Counselling Services we offer.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Blair Schulze (Grey Lynn) and Chris Lorigan (Milford) specialise in working with OCD.

If you are suffering from OCD it is important to consult a professional experienced with OCD treatment. Best practice is to use the clinically proven treatments of CBT using Exposure and Response prevention (ERP) and mindfulness based therapies which may include Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Children & teens

OCD symptoms can start quite early in childhood and become pronounced in teenage years. Again it is most like associated with anxiety from stresses at home or at school such as bullying or family disruptions or a sign of more serious concerns such as abuse. It can also be a sign of ASD (see below). We have an excellent Child, adolescent & family team who can work with you to figure out what is going on and find a way forward for you and your child.

OCD with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder)

ASD spectrum disorders (Asperger's & Autism) underlies OCD in some cases. Colleen Emmens (Mt Eden) has specialist knowledge and experience in working with ASD including co-occurring OCD. She works with children, teens, adults & couples to address the OCD in the context of the autism or Asperger's.