Why more people in the UK are suffering from OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that affects approximately 1.2% of the UK population. However, in recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of people suffering from OCD. This increase can be attributed to a number of factors, including work habits, technology usage, and the cost of living.


5 signs of OCD

  1. Obsessive thoughts: One of the primary symptoms of OCD is intrusive thoughts that are often disturbing or distressing. These thoughts can take on many forms, such as fears of contamination, fears of causing harm to others, or persistent doubts about everyday decisions.
  2. Repetitive behaviours: Another hallmark of OCD is the presence of compulsive behaviours that are repetitive and time-consuming. These behaviours can include repetitive hand-washing, checking locks, counting objects, or repeatedly arranging objects in a specific order.
  3. Need for symmetry: Many individuals with OCD have an intense need for symmetry or order, which can manifest in compulsive behaviours such as arranging objects in a specific way, or checking and rechecking to ensure that everything is aligned perfectly.
  4. Avoidance of triggers: Individuals with OCD may go to great lengths to avoid situations or objects that trigger their obsessions or compulsions. This can include avoiding social situations, specific people or places, or objects that are associated with their obsessions.
  5. Impaired functioning: OCD can interfere with an individual's daily functioning and quality of life. For example, excessive hand-washing or checking behaviours can make it difficult to complete everyday tasks or hold down a job, leading to social isolation and financial difficulties.

Work habits

The UK has a culture of overworking, with long hours and high levels of stress being commonplace in many industries. This can lead to people developing OCD as a way of coping with the pressure. For example, someone who works in finance may become obsessed with checking and rechecking financial records, or someone who works in healthcare may become obsessed with hand hygiene. These behaviours may start off as coping mechanisms, but they can quickly become compulsive and interfere with daily life.

Technology usage

Technology has become an integral part of our lives, but it can also contribute to the development of OCD. The constant need to check emails, social media, and other online platforms can lead to compulsive behaviour. For example, someone may feel the need to check their email every five minutes or to constantly refresh their social media feed. This behaviour can become so ingrained that it interferes with daily life.

Cost of living

The cost of living in the UK has increased significantly in recent years, putting additional pressure on individuals and families. This pressure can manifest as OCD, as people become obsessed with managing their finances, checking bills and receipts, and ensuring that they are not overspending. These behaviours may start off as a way of coping with financial stress, but they can quickly become compulsive and interfere with daily life.

Case study

Karen is a 35-year-old marketing executive who has been diagnosed with OCD. She first started experiencing symptoms when she was working in a high-pressure job that required her to work long hours and meet tight deadlines. She became obsessed with checking and rechecking her work and would spend hours going over the same documents multiple times. This behaviour eventually led to her missing deadlines and falling behind on her work.

Karen also noticed that her OCD was being exacerbated by her constant use of technology. She would constantly check her emails and social media accounts, even during meetings and when she was at home with her family. This behaviour caused significant tension in her personal and professional relationships.

If you have a friend or relative who is struggling with OCD, there are many ways you can offer support and help them manage their symptoms. Here are some tips:

  • Educate yourself: Learn more about OCD and its symptoms so that you can better understand what your friend or relative is going through. This can help you offer more targeted support and avoid saying or doing things that may unintentionally worsen their symptoms.
  • Listen without judgment: People with OCD often feel embarrassed or ashamed about their symptoms, so it's important to create a safe, non-judgmental space where they can talk openly about what they're going through. Avoid dismissing their feelings or trying to "fix" their problems, and instead listen with empathy and understanding.
  • Offer practical help: People with OCD may struggle with daily tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, or running errands. Offer to help with these tasks if you're able to, or help them find resources to make these tasks easier to manage.
  • Encourage treatment: OCD is a treatable condition, and getting professional help can make a big difference in managing symptoms. Encourage your friend or relative to seek treatment, and offer to help them find a therapist or other mental health provider.
  • Be patient and supportive: Recovery from OCD can be a long and difficult process, so it's important to be patient and offer ongoing support. Celebrate small victories and offer encouragement along the way.

Remember, supporting someone with OCD can be challenging, but it's also incredibly important. Your support and encouragement can make a big difference in helping your friend or relative manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

According to the charity OCD Action, the number of people seeking help for OCD in the UK has increased by 56% since 2011. In addition, a survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation found that 63% of UK adults have experienced a mental health problem in their lifetime, with stress being the most commonly reported issue.

The increase in OCD in the UK can be attributed to a number of factors, including work habits, technology usage, and the cost of living. While these issues may seem insurmountable, there are steps that can be taken to reduce their impact. Employers can promote a culture of work-life balance and encourage employees to take breaks and seek support when needed.

Individuals can also take steps to manage their technology usage and financial stress, such as setting boundaries around their online activities and seeking financial counselling if needed. By addressing these issues, we can reduce the impact of OCD and other mental health conditions on individuals and communities in the UK.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Wantage OX12 & Rickmansworth WD3
Written by Hope Therapy & Counselling Services, Offering Counselling, CBT, Hypnotherapy, EMDR & Mindfulness.
Wantage OX12 & Rickmansworth WD3

Ian Stockbridge is the founder and lead counsellor at Hope Therapy and Counselling Services. 

As an experienced Counsellor, Ian recognised a huge societal need for therapeutic services that were often not being met. As such the 'Hope Agency'was born and its counselling team now offers counselling and therapeutic support throughout the UK.

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