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Mental health: Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

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Mental Health

Mental health: Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness consisting of high anxiety, repetitive behaviours, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. 


It is a type of anxiety disorder involving two categories of symptoms; obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are repetitive and intrusive thoughts, feelings or ideas that are unwanted and cause high anxiety. Compulsions are repetitive actions that may be seen as behaviours or rituals. Symptoms of OCD can develop after a brain injury.


With OCD it is often felt that there will be a negative consequence if the behaviour or ritual it not completed. The compulsions may put the obsessions to ease temporarily. However these can become very upsetting for the person performing them but they are usually time consuming, interfere with daily life, and also impact on other family members. 


Causes of OCD

There are many theories on causes, including genetics, chemical imbalance and structural abnormalities in the brain. Research indicates a Traumatic Brain Injury could be one cause due to neural damage coupled with high stress possibly contributing to the development of OCD.


Symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder

A person can have multiple obsessions and compulsions that can interfere with daily life. Examples of compulsions are repetitive actions such as washing, cleaning, checking, hoarding, touching and counting. 


Obsessions can involve thoughts, images, religious issues, fear of contamination, fears of harm to self or others and praying. 


Typical emotions are stress, anxiety, frustration, depression, and often a sense of blame or shame. 


OCD treatments

The most effective treatments currently are medication, cognitive behaviour therapy, community support and recovery programs. The best outcomes usually involve an experienced health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist providing support, education and often a combination of treatments.


Medication: Certain drugs help the brain to restore the usual chemical balance and help to assist with the control of obsessions and compulsions. Consult your GP for more information.


Cognitive behaviour therapy: Depending on a person's level of cognitive impairment, CBT is an effective treatment. Cognitive behaviour therapy assists with changing irrational beliefs and thought patterns and finding alternative coping methods.

Community support & recovery programs: They provide an environment to give and receive support. They provide acceptance and understanding, along with self-help strategies.


Other strategies that may help include:

  • Writing in a journal
  • Exercise to use up excess energy
  • Play video games to distract yourself until the anxiety passes
  • Try relaxation techniques, such as breathing techniques or visualization.
  • Cry and express your sadness of frustrations
  • Talk to someone either a family member, health professional or help line.


Give yourself time

Symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder take some time to decrease. It is common to feel as if there is no improvement so keep a diary of your accomplishments, thoughts and feelings so you can reflect back on your accomplishments.

References and further information

Lifeline 13 11 14

[1] Obsessive Compulsive Disorder- Reach out!
[2] Elbaum, J. (2007). Counseling Individuals Post Acquired Brain Injury. In J. Elbaum & Benson, D. M (Ed.), Acquired Brain Injury: An Integrative Neuro - Rehabilitation Approach (pp. 259-274). New York, NY: Springer Science + Media, LLC.

OCD-National Institute of Mental Health
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder- Anxiety recovery centre-
Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD)-Anxiety Treatment Australia
Obsessive compulsive disorder secondary to head injury


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