People who experience obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), such as fear of germs or contamination, are being encouraged to participate in a free online program, which is being tested for its effectiveness.
OCDDrop is an online intervention program which helps people understand their obsessional thoughts and compulsive behaviours through teaching a common psychological technique known as Exposure with Response Prevention.
Researchers from the College of Health and Medicine’s Division of Psychology want to assess whether the program is effective, and how it can assist people to understand better the disorder.
OCDDrop was developed by Professor Ken Kirkby at the University of Tasmania’s School of Medicine.
Dr Allison Matthews (Division of Psychology) and Dr Joel Scanlan (School of Medicine) have teamed up with Professor Kirkby to trial the intervention in a research study, which is being conducted by Master of Psychology (Clinical) student Jac Tichbon and Monique Williams, a recent Master of Psychology (Clinical) graduate and PhD candidate.
“Approximately one per cent of the adult population experience obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD),” Mr Tichbon said.
“However, many people can experience obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviours without necessarily having OCD.
“In this trial, volunteers do not need to have a formal diagnosis to take part.
“Unfortunately, some of the reasons why many people with obsessional thoughts and/or compulsive behaviours do not seek support include lack of access to services, and the cost and duration of treatments, which is why online interventions could be a helpful solution.”
Mr Tichbon said obsessional thoughts can result in marked anxiety for the person experiencing them and can severely impact their quality of life. These obsessions can include fears around germs or contamination, fears of harm to yourself or others, the need for order or symmetry, thoughts of doubt or incompleteness and other intrusive thoughts.
Mr Tichbon said the OCDDrop program models obsessions around dirt and germs and hand-washing behaviours. However, people experiencing other forms of obsessional thoughts or compulsive behaviours may also take part.
In the current research trial, participants engage with an online program, directing a computer character around a virtual world.
Mr Tichbon said the online intervention might act as a stepping stone for real-life Exposure with Response Prevention.
“We are conducting this research trial to assess the effectiveness of the intervention and to work out improvements that could be made to potentially help more people in the future,” he said.