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What are OCD and BDD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Body Dymorphic Disorder (BDD) are conditions that effect about a million children and adults.  They can cause great distress for both sufferers and their family and friends. Although they are often linked together they are in fact different conditions.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

OCD causes a person to have irrational thoughts known as ‘obsessions’.  These are often triggered by stress and depression. To try and deal with the anxiety associated with the obsession, repetitive actions or ‘compulsions’ are performed. Some people only suffer from obsessions, whilst others suffer from a mixture of both obsessions and compulsions. Whilst many people have minor obsessions which form part of their personality, there are severe forms of the condition.

Actions associated with OCD are a response to obsessional fears, so for example the compulsive rituals (washing hands etc) help people have ‘safe’ thoughts and in the short-term reduce anxiety.

Obsessional fears don't always lead to compulsive rituals; instead they can cause intense fear of an outcome. Obsessions may be about violence, contamination, sexuality or accidental injury.

Obsessions are irrational and not reflective of usual behaviour or values. Normal thinking is affected which can be very upsetting and obsessive thoughts can be overpowering, taking up hours of time. Such thought patterns are hard to break and it is not uncommon to seek regular assurances.

Different diagnosis and treatment options

OCD treatment often involves cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and OCD medication. A structured programme tailored to the specific problem will be designed after a consultant psychiatrist and trained therapist have carried out an assessment. Treatment depends on the seriousness of the condition.

What is BDD?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) describes a disabling preoccupation where a person becomes overly concerned with perceived defects or flaws in appearance.

It is recognized as a hidden disorder as many people with BDD are too ashamed to reveal their main problem. Surveys put BDD at about 2% of the population. It is more common in adolescents and young people. We know very little about cultural influences in BDD – for example, it may be more common in cultures that put an emphasis on the importance of appearance. In the West, it is equally common in men and women although milder BDD may be more common in women.

Books and self-help guides

Dr Lynne Drummond has published a number of books for healthcare professionals on OCD and BDD. Her most recent publication, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder All You Want to Know about OCD for People Living with OCD, Carers, and Clinicians was published by Cambridge Press/Royal College of Psychiatrists in August

The OCD workbook: your guide to breaking free from obsessive compulsive disorder, Hyman, B and Pedrick, C (2005),  New Harbinger Publications, Oakland CA. (A guide through exposure response prevention for adults and adolescent patients and advice for families.)

Overcoming obsessive compulsive disorder, Veale, D and Wilson, R (2005), Constable and Robinson, London

(A self-help guide using cognitive behavioural techniques.)