Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder which is thought to occur in approximately 2% of the general population. if you are suffering from OCD, you will be experiencing the following:

  • Obsessions: unwanted intrusive thoughts, images or urges that cause a lot of distressing emotions and feel outside of your control.
  • Compulsions: Behaviours or mental acts that you are driven to perform repeatedly to alleviate anxiety caused by obsessions.

To qualify for the diagnosis of OCD the obsessions will be causing intense distress and may be taking up significant time or cause you to avoid important activities.

There are many themes that OCD can take such as:

Harm/Responsibility: Fears of being responsible for harming others (can include driving fears, poisoning, giving HIV, causing accidents etc).

Contamination: Fear of dirt, germs, chemicals, lead, asbestos or items that may feel ’emotionally contaminated’.

Violent/Suicidal: Fears of acting on an impulse to violently harm others or fears of wanting to commit suicide (this is different from suicidal ideation caused by depression).

Sexual: Unwanted sexual thoughts, sensations or urges about sexual orientation or forbidden acts including pedophilia, incest, beastiality etc.

Relationship: Fears of not loving or trusting your partner, friends, relatives, being attracted to others etc.

Moral/Religious (Scrupulosity): excessive concerns with behaving in a right/wrong, immoral or blasphemous way.

Perfectionism: excessive concern about evenness, exactness, symmetry, performing tasks perfectly, making mistakes or forgetting something important.

Existential: excessive preoccupation with death/existence or one’s role in the universe or ‘grand scheme’.

Hyperawareness: excessive preoccupation with bodily or mental functions (such as swallowing, breathing, blinking, body positioning, thinking, health concerns, hearing noises etc)

Superstitious: excessive fears of certain numbers, colours, black cats, walking under ladders etc.

The causes of OCD are not yet known but genetics are likely to play a role.


It is important that you consult a professional who is experienced with OCD treatment as the wrong methods can unfortunately worsen the condition.

Each person’s OCD is unique, however ‘best practise’ treatment will include CBT utilising Exposure and Response prevention (ERP) and mindfulness skills found in therapies such as ACT.

Medication may also be a necessary part of treatment if the OCD is severe.

Blair Schulze has over 20 years experience treating OCD.

Counselling Works is an Auckland Counselling service based in Grey Lynn Ponsonby, Central Auckland.