Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
In the film, “As Good as it Gets”, Jack Nicholson portrays an individual living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (otherwise known as OCD).
The disorder is characterised by obsessions and compulsions which typically take up significant amounts of time, cause distress and interfere with a person’s every-day activities and function. Obsessions are intrusive, unwanted and persistent thoughts, images and impulses with themes such as contamination and danger to self or others. Compulsions are repetitive ritualistic behaviours that the individual feels unable to resist and provide some relief from anxiety such as washing and checking.
OCD is a very treatable condition with a strong evidence base supporting both talking therapies (psychotherapy) and medication therapy (pharmacotherapy).
The most commonly used psychotherapy is Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), in particular Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). This is essentially a systematic process of “unlearning” the OCD connections that have developed. It involves a very gradual process of being exposed to the obsession and not undertaking the compulsion. Lower level obsessions are tackled first with the use of anxiety management strategies. Recently, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has increasing evidence for its benefits in anxiety and this treatment focuses on practices such as Mindfulness. Medications may also be used in the treatment of OCD with great effect.
Individual psychotherapy and medication management is offered by Epworth Clinic psychiatrists and group programs for OCD and anxiety are also available at Epworth Clinic using ACT or CBT.
With the rates of mental illness on the rise in Australia, particularly in young people, we decided to open up the can of worms and speak to clinical psychologist, Hannah Hawkes, about the elephant in the room.
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