Everyone experiences occasional worries and concerns, but for some individuals, these feelings can become overwhelming, trapping them in a cycle of obsession and compulsion that can significantly impact their ability to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), characterized by this cycle of obsession and compulsion, is a disorder affecting around 2.3% of the population (Ruscio, Stein, Chiu, & Kessler, 2008). Obsessions are unwanted and intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger distress. The distress caused by these obsessions drives individuals with OCD to carry out what are known as compulsions. These are specific actions or rituals that are intended to alleviate distress (CAMH, 2016).
If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a professional counsellor, here are some helpful tips to help you better understand OCD.
Obsessions and Compulsions Can Manifest in Many Different Ways
One common misconception surrounding OCD is that it always manifests as an obsession with cleanliness and order. However, it’s important to note that this is not always the case (Ryback, 2016).
While contamination from germs, dirt, and diseases, as well as a focus on exactness and order are common themes when it comes to individuals’ obsessions, there are many other themes that regularly recur among individuals living with OCD. These can include repeated doubting, preoccupation with religious images and thoughts or fears of having blasphemous thoughts, fear of harming oneself or others, and fear of blurting out obscenities. Likewise, washing and cleaning are common compulsions among those living with OCD, but so are repeatedly checking for mistakes, ordering and arranging, hoarding, and repeating words or counting (CAMH, 2016). Rather than relying on stereotypes of what OCD typically looks like, mental health professionals focus on the core feature of the disorder, which is the cycle of obsession and compulsion itself.
Professionals with Counselling Therapist Training Can Help Clients Overcome Self-Stigma
Like many individuals living with mental illness, those who have OCD often experience social stigma. When this harmful stigma is internalized, leading to shame and self-blame, this can become what’s known as self-stigma. Self-stigma can worsen an individual’s quality of life, among other harmful effects (Ociskova, et al., 2015).
According to one study which surveyed over fifty patients with OCD, 80% of respondents were convinced that they would be rejected at work if it became known that they had a mental illness, and two thirds of respondents feared they would be rejected by their partner (Stengler-Wenzke, Beck, Holzinger, & Angermeyer, 2004).
Unfortunately, this sort of stigma can sometimes keep individuals with OCD from seeking help. For those individuals who do seek help, however, counsellors can play a vital role in helping their clients overcome self-stigma. By helping individuals with OCD understand their worth, and reminding them that they are not alone, counsellors can help them begin to move past stigma-based thinking (Intrusive Thoughts, n.d.).
Living with Obsessive-compulsive disorder
OCD is, for many, a chronic and life-long condition (Ryback, 2016). In these cases, graduates of counselling therapist college can play an important role in helping individuals living with OCD.
Group counselling sessions, for example, where individuals with OCD share their experiences and come together to support each other, can provide benefit for some (Psychology Today, 2019). Professional counsellors can play an important role in leading these sessions and helping to connect individuals as they share their stories.
Are you interested in pursuing a career as a professional counsellor?
Contact Rhodes Wellness College for more information about counselling therapist courses in BC.
Center for Addiction and Mental Health (2016). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Retrieved from: https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/obsessive-compulsive-disorder
Intrusive Thoughts (n.d.). Stigma and OCD. Retrieved from: https://www.intrusivethoughts.org/?topic=stigma
Kelly, O. (2018, Oct 3). Coping With Stress When You Have OCD. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellmind.com/ocd-and-stress-2510553
Ociskova, M., Prasko, J., Kamaradova, D., Grambal, A., & Sigmundova, Z. (2015, Jul 17). Individual correlates of self-stigma in patients with anxiety disorders with and without comorbidities. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 2015(11), 1767—1779.
Psychology Today (2019, Feb 7). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder
Ruscio, A. M., Stein, D. J., Chiu, W. T., & Kessler, R. C. (2008). The epidemiology of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Molecular psychiatry, 15(1), 53-63. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2797569/
Ryback, Ralph (2016, May 9). 4 Myths About OCD. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-truisms-wellness/201605/4-myths-about-ocd