Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Obsessive compulsive disorder, known widely as OCD, is a mental health disorder, in which someone has repeated unwanted thoughts, feelings or behaviour. It can be characterised by repeated intrusive thoughts or sensations (obsessions) and rituals (compulsions) aimed at reducing the distress they feel. Some sufferers of the disorder can experience both obsessions and compulsions.

Although most people have habits or repetitive thoughts sometimes, OCD is a serious disorder that can be incredibly distressing and debilitating. OCD may cause individuals to feel frequently tense, anxious, fearful, guilty, disgusted or depressed.

Often, they understand that their thoughts, feelings and actions do not make sense; however, find they cannot stop. Sufferers usually feel better if they carry out their compulsive behaviour or ritual.

OCD can affect people of all ages and genders. Symptoms can start to show in childhood or teenage years but usually develops in adulthood.

Signs and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Most people with OCD will suffer from obsessive and/or compulsive thoughts.


Obsessions are unwanted, unpleasant and repeated thoughts, images, doubts or ruminations in your mind. You try not to think about them, but they won’t go away. They may wonder for hours whether you might have caused an accident or misfortune to someone, endlessly argue with themselves or bothered, in a way that other people are not if things are not in exactly the right order, not balanced or not in the right place.


Compulsions are mental acts or repetitive behaviour. Individuals with OCD experience obsessional thoughts like counting or saying a special word over and over again or avoidance by avoiding touching particular objects, going to certain places taking risks or accepting responsibility. They may have rituals such as washing hands frequently or repeatedly asking others to tell them that everything is alright.

There are a number of mental health problems linked to OCD that involve repetitive thoughts, feelings and urges. Examples of similar conditions include body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), compulsive skin picking (also known as CSP), trichotillomania, perinatal OCD and hoarding. 

Causes of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

The main causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) according to research, tend to be:

  • Genetics 
  • Depression, anxiety or ‘tics’
  • Trauma
  • History of physical or sexual abuse as a child

Treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) at Nightingale Hospital

Nightingale Hospital offers a range of treatments for OCD. You may attend as an outpatient, day patient or inpatient.

OCD and related disorders inpatient unit at Nightingale Hospital

The OCD and related disorders unit at Nightingale Hospital is a 6-bedded inpatient service, dedicated to treating patients with OCD. It is a private and unique service, specialising in the intensive delivery of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)The unit is under the leadership of world-renowned expert, Professor David Veale

An inpatient admission will usually be suggested if:

Read more about the OCD and related disorders inpatient unit at Nightingale Hospital.

Therapy to treat OCD

There are two main types of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, known as CBT, that treat OCD.

  • Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) is a way to stop compulsive behaviours and anxieties strengthening each other by gradually facing your fears and learning to prevent the usual compulsive behaviours. 
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a goal-directed, systematic and problem solving therapeutic approach that focuses on the way we think and acts in order to help overcome and manage emotional difficulties.

Medication to treat OCD

Medication can also be effective in improving OCD symptoms. It can be used in combination with CBT to reduce obsessions and compulsions.

If you’re suffering from OCD, get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help.

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) is a non-invasive method of brain stimulation. 

The basic principle of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) is to target short magnetic pulses over the scalp in specific brain regions that regulate mood.

rTMS is a medically safe treatment that has been evidenced to significantly decrease symptoms of depression and OCD.

Useful resources

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