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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

The below information is purely for educational purposes and does not constitute medical advice. This content should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.

What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition where people develop anxiety-producing thoughts (obsessions), which they may attempt to relieve by performing an action (compulsions).

The obsessions and/or compulsions are often time-consuming, distressing to the individual and interfere with their home, work, or social life.

OCD affects 1 in 100 people in the UK.

What causes OCD?

The exact cause for this disorder is unknown but it is common in individuals who have OCD in their family or other mental health conditions. There is also an increase in incidence of OCD during pregnancy. Research suggests that OCD may be due to an imbalance in chemical messengers in the brain, including serotonin. In addition, the symptoms can be exacerbated by stress in individuals with OCD.

Symptoms of OCD

There are many types of OCD that can trigger different types of behaviour from unwanted obsessions. These obsessions are created by recurrent, anxiety-producing thoughts that cause marked distress. Most people with OCD recognise that these thoughts are irrational. Some common obsessions include:

  • Fears about contamination with dirt or diseases
  • Need for symmetry or exactness
  • Worries about injury or harm to yourself or others

What is OCD behaviour?

Compulsions are repetitive behavioural or mental acts that a person with OCD feels they need to do to control their obsessions. By performing that compulsion, the individual feels like they can prevent their obsession from occurring or reduce the anxiety associated with it. However, they may lack any obvious link to the obsession. Some examples of OCD compulsions are:

  • Cleaning
  • Hand washing
  • Ordering
  • Hoarding
  • Counting
  • Repeating words

What is the best treatment for OCD?

Simple approaches including education and self-help can improve symptoms and reduce the impact on quality of life. Most patients will also benefit from an element of psychological therapy. The therapy which has the most evidence to support it is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with exposure and response prevention (ERP). Medication prescribed for OCD may involve the use of anti-depressants (e.g., fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetine). Neuromodulation in the form of transcranial magnetic stimulation or deep brain stimulation may be utilised in individuals who don’t respond to initial therapies. Medicinal cannabis can be considered when first-line therapies have not achieved adequate benefit in symptoms or quality of life.

How is OCD diagnosed?

OCD is diagnosed from a patient’s symptoms. Questionnaires are a commonly used tool to help assess the severity of OCD. They are also useful in monitoring response to treatment.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Medicinal Cannabis

Research into the effect of medicinal cannabis on OCD is limited. However, following the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes in 2018, there has been a rise in people looking towards medical cannabis. When first-line therapies have not proved effective at reducing symptoms, medical cannabis may be considered an option for OCD.

For further information and to find out more about medical cannabis, click here to discover more about our award-winning Curaleaf Access Scheme. Alternatively, complete an eligibility assessment now. Once complete, one of our clinicians will review your application and advise whether you are eligible for progression to an appointment.

Table of Contents

Frequently Asked Questions about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

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Relationship OCD, or ROCD, is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) characterised by constant doubts, anxieties, and intrusive thoughts about one’s romantic relationship. Individuals with ROCD excessively analyse their feelings, partner’s behaviours, and relationship compatibility, leading to persistent doubt and distress. It’s crucial to seek professional help to manage and alleviate the distress caused by ROCD.

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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is considered a mental health condition and disability under the Equality Act 2010. If there is a significant impact on daily life that has lasted longer than 12 months, then these effects can meet the criteria in the Act.

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There are several factors that can contribute to worsening symptoms of OCD. Stress, anxiety, or trauma can intensify OCD behaviours. Additionally, lack of sleep or disruptions in sleep patterns may also make symptoms worse. Certain life events such as major changes or transitions can exacerbate OCD. Untreated or poorly managed mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety disorders, can also impact the severity of OCD symptoms. It is important to seek professional help to effectively manage and cope with OCD if you are struggling.

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There is evidence suggesting that OCD has a genetic component, meaning that it can run in families. However, it is important to note that genetics alone do not determine the development of OCD. Environmental factors and individual experiences also play a significant role in its onset. A consultation with a healthcare professional would provide more information and guidance.

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Whilst OCD is commonly associated with increased anxiety it is no longer classified as an anxiety disorder. It is characterised by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviours (compulsions) aimed at reducing anxiety. Treatment often involves therapy and medication to manage anxiety and reduce symptoms.