OCD can severely impact your quality of life if left untreated.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a psychological disorder consisting of 3 elements:

  • Obsessions – Frequent undesired thoughts and fears
  • Compulsions – Repetitive behaviours in response to obsessions
  • Disorder – Where frequent obsessions and compulsions are distressing and disrupts one’s day-to-day functioning

The main form of OCD treatment in Singapore is psychotherapy to help overcome a person’s anxieties and unhealthy thought processes. Exposure and Response Prevention is typically used, with a rise in use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy as well.

Woman looking stressed with hand on chin

Seeking help for OCD can greatly improve your relationships, performance at work, and overall quality of life. Take the first step and speak to a professional counsellor today.

Signs and Symptoms of OCD

There are many ways OCD may manifest in one’s life. Signs and symptoms range from obsessive thoughts to compulsive behaviours that hinder a person’s day-to-day activities.

Here are some things to look out for:

  • Irrational fear of contamination from germs or dirt
  • Fear of harming oneself or others accidentally or intentionally
  • Need for symmetry and perfection
  • Avoiding situations that may trigger obsessive thoughts
  • Excessive cleaning and hand washing
  • Mental repetition of words or numbers a specific number of times
  • Excessive checking and counting
  • Excessive ordering and arranging
  • Hoarding
  • Irrational fear of contamination from germs or dirt
  • Fear of harming oneself or others accidentally or intentionally
  • Need for symmetry and perfection
  • Avoiding situations that may trigger obsessive thoughts
  • Excessive cleaning and hand washing
  • Mental repetition of words or numbers a specific number of times
  • Excessive checking and counting
  • Excessive ordering and arranging
  • Hoarding

If you resonate with a few or all of these symptoms, speak to a psychotherapist for a professional diagnosis and to receive treatment.

Obsessions vs Compulsions

OCD is typically seen as a vicious cycle between obsessive thoughts and fears that are distressing, and compulsive actions done to temporarily alleviate that distress.

Recovery may include observing and challenging one’s obsessive thoughts, or holding back from performing compulsive rituals. Hence, it is good to know the difference between the terms.

 ObsessionsCompulsions
What it isRecurring thoughts, images and impulses that feel outside of one’s control.

These thoughts often bring up intense and uncomfortable feelings like disgust, doubt, anxiety and the need to do things “just right”.
Mental or physical responses to the distress experienced from recurring obsessions.

Compulsions are engaged to temporarily relieve the discomfort from obsessive thoughts. Some compulsions involve repetition while others do not.
Themes
  • Contamination
  • Violence
  • Religion or morality
  • Doubt and incompleteness
  • Order and symmetry related
  • Cleaning
  • Mental compulsions
  • Repetition
  • Checking
  • Arranging
  • Examples
    Contamination + cleaning“This MRT pole is contaminated. I will fall sick if I touch it.”Washing hands five times, for one minute each time, after every MRT ride.
    Violence + mental compulsions“What if I accidentally or intentionally stab my parents with this knife?”Saying “no” twenty-one times in your head while pinching yourself, and repeating the ritual to ensure the thought does not return.
    Mortality + repetitionHaving an intrusive thought of doing something “wrong” or sinful.Writing down every possible sinful action you could do, rewriting the whole list and praying for forgiveness when a new thought emerges.
    Doubt + checking“What if I left the gas on in the kitchen?”Checking the gas stove and twisting the knobs off multiple times a day, everyday.
    Order + arrangingFeeling the overwhelming need to arrange all clothes by colourSpending hours arranging clothes by colour, including the clothes of all household members

    How OCD Can Affect Your Life

    People suffering from OCD may experience a loss of opportunities, life experiences and general life satisfaction as a result of their condition. They may experience the following:

    Difficulty performing everyday tasks

    Acting on compulsions can be very time consuming, making it take longer to complete everyday tasks. People with OCD may also avoid certain tasks like eating, shopping or bathing, if it triggers any obsessive fears.

    This affects one’s life as more effort is required to complete everyday tasks.

    Hindered education and employment opportunities

    As OCD behaviours may be time consuming, your performance at work or school may suffer as you struggle to get tasks done on time. A sense of shame may also hold you back from declaring your struggles to superiors.

    Many people with OCD lose out on life opportunities as their strengths may be overshadowed by their symptoms.

    Strained relationships

    OCD behaviours may cause frustration or a breakdown in communication with loved ones. This may negatively impact relationships, especially if your loved ones are unaware of the disorder.

    This may diminish the fulfilment one would feel from having strong, healthy relationships.

    Treatment Approaches for OCD

    OCD can be managed with therapy and counselling. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is the most common approach to treating the disorder. A growing number of therapists also use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to treat those who may not benefit as much from ERP techniques.

    Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

    What it is:
    ERP is a technique under Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) most commonly used in OCD treatment. 

    Under the guidance of a psychotherapist, you will be exposed to situations, thoughts, images and objects that invoke your specific obsessive tendencies. You will then be guided to actively choose not to engage in the compulsive behaviours that emerge.

    How it helps:
    Continual exposure to these “triggers” will desensitise you to the anxiety that comes with them, allowing your anxiety levels to eventually lower and fade away. Over time, you will be taught to carry out these coping techniques on your own, without the help of your therapist.

    Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

    What it is:
    ACT is an action-based approach that focuses on fostering acceptance, mindfulness and a commitment to personal values within an individual. 

    Your therapist will guide you to listen to your own self-talk and unpack difficult thoughts, emotions and unhelpful coping mechanisms. You will then be guided to accept any resulting feelings of discomfort, and commit to practising more confident, optimistic behaviour based on your personal values.

    In ACT, you may be tasked to create your own list of actionable and achievable goals to challenge your obsessive fears or compulsive behaviours.

    How it helps:
    This method relies on encouraging positive behaviour, while acknowledging your internal struggles. The aim of ACT is to improve your psychological flexibility. 

    Successful treatment will equip you with the strength and willingness to go through difficult internal experiences while actively achieving your goals. Through value-driven actions, you will begin to overcome the limitations that OCD may have been posing in your life.

    Our Psychotherapists For OCD

    Sophia Goh

    M.A. in Counselling and Guidance, Singapore

    Sophia Goh - principal counsellor of Sofia Wellness Clinic

    Sophia is experienced working with adolescents and adults. She practices positive psychology with the aim of helping her clients lead successful and fulfilling lives.

    Alexandra Bohnen

    M.A. in Counselling, Australia

    Alexandra Bohnen - Senior counsellor of Sofia Wellness Clinic

    Alexandra believes in providing accessible, inclusive therapy for all. She has received training in ACT.

    Kathleen Chong

    M.A. in Counselling and Guidance, Singapore

    Kathleen Chong - Counsellor of Sofia Wellness Clinic

    Kathleen aims to help her clients achieve their goals and reach their fullest potentials in a fast-paced world. She employs mindfulness techniques in her counselling approaches.

    Why Choose Sofia Wellness Clinic For OCD Treatment?

    Inclusive environment

    We aim to create a compassionate, respectful and judgement-free environment for our clients from all backgrounds and walks of life.

    Our team of counsellors are dedicated to empowering each and every one of our clients to lead successful and meaningful lives.

    Evidence-based approaches

    Our psychotherapists employ evidence-based approaches in their counselling practices to bring quality to our clients’ mental health journeys. 

    We are also dedicated to continual learning and staying on top of any scientifically-backed developments in the field.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is OCD common in Singapore?

    OCD is quite common in Singapore. According to the Singapore Mental Health Study (SMHS) done in 2016, 1 in 28 adults has had OCD at some point of their lives. This makes it one of the top 3 most common disorders in the country.

    What causes OCD?

    The exact cause of OCD is not known yet. However, experts believe that the disorder may be brought on by one’s genetics, environment, and chemical imbalances in the brain or body. 

    There is some evidence that shows that OCD may be partially hereditary. Some behaviours may also be learned from close family members, or developed as a result of abuse or traumatic life experiences.

    What can happen if OCD is not treated?

    Untreated OCD can take a toll on one’s physical and mental health, greatly diminishing a person’s quality of life. 

    If left untreated, obsessive thoughts may hinder one’s ability to focus at work, school or on everyday tasks. Meanwhile, compulsive behaviours may take up hours of one’s day.

    Untreated OCD leaves many sufferers feeling helpless, socially isolated and even suicidal. You do not need to suffer alone. Seek help for OCD as a first step to improving your quality of life.

    How is OCD treated in Singapore?

    Psychotherapy is the main form of OCD treatment used in Singapore. ERP, a method under CBT, is typically used during treatment.

    In recent years, ACT has been growing in popularity with psychotherapists treating OCD around the world as well.

    In some cases, medication like antidepressants may be prescribed to boost the effectiveness of therapy. These are typically regarded as a secondary method of treatment.

    OCD Treatment in Singapore

    OCD may affect all aspects of life, but you do not need to suffer in silence. If you suspect yourself or a loved one of suffering from OCD, seek help by contacting us or book an appointment with us today.

    Sophia Goh Profile Photo
    Written by Sophia Goh, Senior Counsellor at Sofia Wellness Clinic