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Counselling for OCD


Everyone has rituals or habits that make them feel more comfortable. However, when you cannot stop obsessive thoughts or feel compelled to engage in rituals, even if it interferes with your life, it may be time to seek help. 

What is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic mental health condition characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour. People with OCD may recognize that their thoughts or actions aren’t helpful or make no sense but feel unable to control them. OCD affects people of all ages and can have a substantial impact on their quality of life. Sources:, Abramowitz, J. S., McKay, D., & Taylor, S. (Eds.). (2009)

OCD usually includes obsessions and compulsions. But, it is possible to have OCD with only obsessions or only compulsions. The symptoms of OCD significantly interfere with daily functioning or occupy at least one hour of every day:

Obsessive Thoughts:

The thoughts experienced in people with OCD are distressing and feel like they are on repeat. There are many different types of obsessive thoughts that people have, such as:

  • Fear of contamination or dirt

  • Doubting, second-guessing, and difficulty tolerating uncertainty

  • Order and symmetry

  • Aggressive, violent, or upsetting thoughts 

  • Unwanted or uncomfortable thoughts (i.e. sexual, religious, hurting someone, etc.)

Sometimes the intrusive thoughts caused by OCD can be very upsetting. They often feel stuck in your mind and may be violent or disturbing in nature. Having intrusive or upsetting thoughts does not make you a bad person and there’s no need to feel ashamed.

Compulsive Behaviour:

Compulsive behaviours are actions you may feel driven to take in order to reduce anxiety related to obsessions or prevent something bad from happening. People with OCD often create unique rules or rituals to help them deal with obsessive thoughts. 

Some types of compulsions include:

  • Washing and cleaning objects or self

  • Checking (i.e., doors, plugs, stoves)

  • Counting

  • Orderliness and symmetry

  • Following a strict routine

  • Demanding reassurance

Commonly experienced compulsions may be daily things like checking doors, excessively washing hands, repeating a certain phrase, or rearranging food so that all labels face outward. 

Many people begin exhibiting signs of OCD in their teen years, but it can start in childhood. The severity of symptoms can vary significantly throughout life, and the content of obsessions may even change over time. Stress often triggers worsening of symptoms.

What Does OCD Feel Like? Commons Signs and Symptoms

What Causes OCD?

There is no exact known cause of OCD. It can develop due to a combination of factors such as:

  • Family history: You are at a higher risk of developing OCD if you have a family member with OCD. 

  • Exposure to Trauma: Traumatic or stressful life events may increase your risk of OCD. Sometimes OCD develops as a coping mechanism to deal with childhood trauma, which may manifest as acting out on rituals believed to prevent unwanted events. 

  • Biochemical Factors: Dysfunction in a brain circuit associated with thoughts, impulses, and actions may be involved in OCD symptoms. People with OCD seem to have abnormalities in this circuit where it doesn’t “turn off” once an action is completed, leading to repetition, rumination, and doubt. It is believed that there is also dysfunction in the serotonin system, contributing to the anxiety and stress involved with OCD.  

  • Medical Conditions: PANDAS (Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections) is a type of OCD occurring in childhood following infection with strep throat. PANDAS generally happens very suddenly in children and can sometimes last into adulthood. 

  • Environmental Factors: Characteristics of your environment such as stress, instability, and a poor support system may increase your risk of OCD or make symptoms worse. Some types of OCD behaviours can be learned from observation. 

  • Mental Health: People living with mental health problems like anxiety disorders, depression, Tourettes, ADHD, or eating disorders have an increased risk of developing OCD. 

It is important to remember that developing OCD can happen gradually. It is a complex condition that impacts every aspect of daily functioning. Clinical intervention is the best way to learn how to manage OCD so that it does not become debilitating. 

How is OCD Treated?

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): In Toronto and Vaughan, our therapists frequently utilize cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for OCD, which typically encompasses two main components: exposure and response prevention (ERP) and cognitive therapy. ERP entails gradually confronting the person with situations or thoughts that provoke their obsessions while preventing the corresponding compulsive actions. This process assists the individual in recognizing the irrationality of their fears and gradually diminishing their anxiety. Source: Abramowitz, J. S., Taylor, S., & McKay, D. (2009) Obsessive-compulsive disorder

2. Medication: Extensive research provides compelling evidence for the exceptional efficacy of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) in treating OCD. These medications work by elevating and regulating serotonin levels, a crucial neurotransmitter in the brain. Source:

Counselling for OCD in Vaughan & Toronto

We are the largest counselling service provider in the Vaughan area with over 18 years of experience. We are delighted to announce that starting in May 2023, our new branch in Toronto's Bloor West Village will be open. Our team of therapists specializes in helping clients identify the roots of their struggles and learn effective tools for overcoming them. We offer cutting edge counselling and coaching to individuals, families, and couples.

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