Skip to Main Content

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a common mental health condition and it causes a person to have obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. It can affect everyone and while it can be distressing and affect daily life, there are treatments that can help to keep it under control.

Symptoms of OCD

Someone who has OCD will experience obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. An obsession is an unwanted or unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters your mind ad causing feelings of anxiety, unease or even disgust. A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that a person feels they need to do to temporarily relieve any unpleasant feelings that can be brought on by the obsessive thoughts. An example of OCD is someone who may have an overwhelming and obsessive fear of their home being broken in to, so they feel the need to check all the doors and windows several times before they leave the house or go to bed. OCD has 3 main symptoms:

  • Obsessions – where an unwanted or intrusive thought, image or urge repeatedly enters your mind and this can often be distressing.
  • Emotions – The obsession can causes intense feelings of anxiety or distress.
  • Compulsions – Repetitive behaviours or mental acts that a person who suffers from OCD feels the need to perform as a result of the anxiety caused by the obsession.

Obsessive Thoughts

At some point in their life, almost everyone has unpleasant thoughts such as sudden mental images that may be violent or offensive. However if these images are persistent it is possible that the person suffers from an obsession. There are a few types of obsessions that can affect people with OCD, such as:

  • A fear of harming yourself or others by mistake.
  • A fear of harming yourself or others deliberately.
  • A fear of disease, infection or an unpleasant substance.
  • A need for orderliness or symmetry, such as ensuring that the cans in your kitchen have the labels all facing the same way.

Some people may experience thoughts of a sexual or violent nature, which they may find frightening or repulsive, and will never act on them.

Compulsive Behaviours

Compulsive start as a way for people to try and reduce or stop the unpleasant thoughts, although in reality this behaviour is never usually connected. An example of this could be someone who has a fear of contamination who will wash their hands repeatedly. Many people who suffer from OCD are aware that such behaviour is irrational but just cannot stop themselves from continuing the behaviour. Not all compulsive behaviours are obvious to others. Common types of compulsive behaviour can include:

  • Asking for reassurance
  • Avoiding places or situations that could trigger obsessive thoughts
  • Checking certain items, such as doors and windows are locked or that they turned the cooker off
  • Cleaning and washing hands
  • Counting
  • Hoarding items
  • Ordering and arranging items
  • Repeating words in their head
  • Thinking “neutralising” thoughts to try and combat the obsessive ones

Getting Help

If a person feels that they suffer from OCD and that it is impacting their life negatively, it is important to get some help. Speaking to a GP about your symptoms and seeking out psychological therapies are the two main sources of professional support. OCD is unlikely to get better on its own, so seeking out professional support will help someone gain access to treatments and support to manage symptoms and help to improve their quality of life.