Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD: When should one seek medical advice?

By  , Expert Content
Sep 03, 2012

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a life-long mental health condition that causes obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour. An obsession can be defined as an involuntary unwanted, unpleasant thought, image, feeling or idea that repeatedly occurs in a person’s mind and causes anxiety. A compulsion can be defined as repetitive behaviour, ritual or mental act that a person feels compelled to do to prevent or reduce anxiety.

Consult a health professional if you have any symptoms suggestive of OCD such as:

  • Fear of getting infected by shaking hands, touching or using objects that some other person has touched. Avoidance of situations which cause obsessions, such as shaking hands, using things touched by others
  • Repeated doubts regarding whether you've locked the door, switched off the heater or turned off the stove or checking doors again and again to confirm they're locked or heater repeatedly to make sure it's off
  • Undue stress and anxiety when objects aren't kept in a orderly way
  • Disturbing images of hurting your child, shouting obscenities in wrong places
  • Arranging objects in the cabinet such as soaps, canned goods so that all of them face the same way

Watchful Waiting

If you have symptoms suggestive of OCD consult a health care professional as soon as possible. Waiting for improvement without treatment is not appropriate. Treatment does not cure OCD but it can help to control symptoms so that they don't interfere with your daily functioning. Start of treatment early in the course of disease makes it easier to control symptoms. Without treatment, the symptoms may increase and become more difficult to control. With treatment most people (about 70%) have significant improvement in symptoms (although they may experience waxing and waning of symptoms throughout their life). Appropriate and timely treatment of OCD can improve your quality of life as well as the lives of your loved ones.

Who to consult

Some health professionals who can be consulted for OCD include:

  • Psychiatrist (a doctor who specialises in diagnosis and management of diseases and problems of mental health)
  • Family medicine doctor.
  • Internist.
  • Nurse practitioner with training in psychiatry

After diagnosis and start of treatment health professionals who can provide ongoing counselling and support include:

  • Psychologist
  • Certified mental health counsellor
  • Social worker



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