What is Obsessional thinking?
Obsessional thinking is often paired with a repeated behaviour or ritual to reduce the anxiety that accompanies the thinking, a condition called obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD.
What are the signs?
Common obsessive thoughts are:
- contamination from dirt or germs
- concern about personal safety or safety of others
- concern with order or symmetry
- concern over aggressive or sexual thoughts
Common compulsive behaviours are:
- cleaning, washing hands, scrubbing household surfaces
- checking if doors are locked or appliances are switched off.
- placing objects in order or in symmetry
- reciting or counting
Causes of obsessional thinking
In some cases, a major life event such as a relationship breakdown, a major health scare or even the birth of a child might be associated with the onset of obsessional thinking. In other cases, the onset can be gradual with no obvious trigger.
There is a familial dimension to OCD, as sufferers are more likely to have a family member who has had this condition. Perfectionism is an unhelpful thinking style which is thought to increase a person’s vulnerability to OCD.
How a psychologist can help
After understanding the factors that potentially are involved in the onset and maintenance of the person’s response, the psychologist will develop a treatment plan. Treatment usually involves exposure and response prevention, accompanied by learning more adaptive ways to manage stress and lifestyle changes. The psychologist may also suggest involving family members or a friend in the treatment plan.