Obsessions are persistent intrusive thoughts, causing significant anxiety and worry. People with OCD have difficulty ignoring or suppressing these obsessions, leading people to act compulsively according to specific rules. Examples of compulsions include hand washing, cleaning, checking on things or silently repeating words. OCD compromises an individual's functioning, quality of life and health.
Symptoms of OCD can range substantially. Some people with a mild diagnosis have control of their OCD-related behaviours. In comparison, others with more severe symptoms or "poor insight" have a limited understanding of what is occurring in a given situation. Clients who demonstrate poor insight often experience longer illness duration or time without treatment.
The onset of OCD is typically diagnosed in early adulthood, with over 50% of people experiencing sudden onset. If left untreated, OCD can progress and consume a person's daily roles and responsibilities, preventing them from participating in previously enjoyed activities or occupations. OCD can be comorbid with other disorders such as depression, substance use and eating disorders. Effective treatment for people diagnosed with OCD is essential to improve quality of life and daily functioning. Treatment often combines multiple approaches such as medicinal and behavioural interventions.
Living with OCD can negatively impact all areas of occupation, such as self-care, work, play, sleep, leisure and productivity. Occupational therapy interventions can support people living with OCD to develop appropriate coping skills and explore issues related to obsessive thoughts and behaviours. For example, exposure-response therapy has proven to be an effective treatment strategy. If occupational performance is impacted, a therapist may work to facilitate functional improvements.
Reference: Atchison, Ben, and Diane Dirette PhD. Conditions in Occupational Therapy: Effect on Occupational Performance. Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2012