OCD affects about 1-2% of the population and although the symptoms very often start in childhood they may start later and continue to develop into adulthood. Obsessive worrying about certain things (e.g. cleanliness) and compulsively performing behavioural rituals to relieve the worrying (e.g. hand washing) can produce significant disruption to a person’s life, often leaving them unable to think about or engage in any other activities.
The causes of OCD are thought to be primarily biological and there seems to be a fairly strong genetic component. The treatment of choice are usually drugs, primarily the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and other antidepressants (e.g. fluoxetine, clomipramine etc.) although psychotherapeutic approaches, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), as well as other talking therapies such as neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy can also be helpful in targeting the ‘belief systems’ that are evident in many OCD sufferers. Such psychological interventions encourage OCD sufferers to break the vicious cycle that contributes to the frequent performance of compulsive rituals and are thus more effective than drugs in the long term. Combining drug therapy and psychological interventions is likely to be the most effective way of treating OCD though not necessarily at the same time.