What Is Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

People with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) have obsessions, compulsions, or both. “Obsessions” are thoughts, mental pictures, or impulses that are upsetting but that keep coming back.

“Compulsions” are actions that people feel they have to perform to feel better again and less anxious or to prevent something bad from happening. Most people with OCD suffer from both obsessions and compulsions.

Common obsessions include:

• Fears of getting a disease, such as AIDS or cancer.

• Fears of touching poisons, such as pesticides.

• Fears of getting contaminated by dirt, bacteria etc.

• Fears of hurting or killing someone, often a loved one.

• Fears of forgetting to do something, such as turn off a stove or lock a door.

• Fears of having done something bad, such as run someone over with the care and having failed to notice it.

• Fears of doing something embarrassing or immoral, such as shouting obscenities.

Compulsions are also called “rituals.” Common compulsions include the following:

• Excessive washing or cleaning, such as washing one’s hands many times a day.

• Checking, such as looking at a stove repeatedly to make sure it is off.

• Repeating actions, such as always turning a light switch on and off 16 times.

• Hoarding or saving things, such as keeping old newspapers or scraps of paper.

• Putting objects in a set pattern, such as making sure everything in a room is symmetrical.

People with OCD usually know that their fears are not completely realistic. They also feel that their compulsions do not make sense. However, they find themselves unable to stop when they are in the situation.

OCD is a common problem. About 1-2 people in every 100 suffer from it.

OCD can cause serious problems. People with OCD often spend hours a day doing rituals. This makes it hard to work or take care of a family. Many people with OCD also avoid places or situations that make them anxious. Some become homebound. Often they have family members help them perform their rituals.


Cognitive-behavioural therapy has been shown to be effective in OCD with high success-rates!

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