Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Explains what obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

Your stories

Finding help for OCD

Katie d'Ath
Posted on 17/10/2013

Winning Mastermind and managing OCD

Clive shares his recent Mastermind victory and his experiences of managing OCD.

Clive
Posted on 28/04/2014

What’s wrong with ‘a little OCD’?

Steve
Posted on 17/10/2013

What is OCD?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder. It has two main parts: obsessions and compulsions.

  • Obsessions are unwelcome thoughts, images, urges, worries or doubts that repeatedly appear in your mind. They can make you feel very anxious (although some people describe it as 'mental discomfort' rather than anxiety). You can read more about obsessions here.
  • Compulsions are repetitive activities that you do to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsession. It could be something like repeatedly checking a door is locked, repeating a specific phrase in your head or checking how your body feels. You can read more about compulsions here.

It's not about being tidy, it's about having no control over your negative thoughts. It's about being afraid not doing things a certain way will cause harm.

You might find that sometimes your obsessions and compulsions are manageable and other times they are impossible to live with. They may be more severe when you are stressed about other things like work, university or relationships.

If you experience OCD during pregnancy or after birth, you might get diagnosed with post-natal or ante-natal OCD. You can find out more about this diagnosis on the Royal College of Psychiatrists website.

Living with OCD

Read Charlotte's blog about her experience of OCD and the barriers her compulsions create in her day-to-day life.

 

Want to add your story? Find out more about blogging for us.

What's it like to live with OCD?

Although many people experience minor obsessions (such as worrying about leaving the gas on, or if the door is locked) and compulsions (such as avoiding the cracks in the pavement), these don’t significantly interfere with daily life, or are short-lived.

If you experience OCD, it's likely that your obsessions and compulsions will have a big impact on how you live your life:

  • Disruption to your day-to-day life. Repeating compulsions can take up a lot of time, and you might avoid certain situations that trigger your OCD. This can mean that you're not able to go to work, see family and friends, eat out or even go outside. Obsessive thoughts can make it hard to concentrate and can leave you feeling exhausted.
  • Impact on your relationships. You may feel that you have to hide your OCD from people close to you - or your doubts and anxieties about the relationship may make it too difficult to continue it.
  • Feeling ashamed or lonely. You may feel ashamed of your obsessive thoughts, or as if they are a permanent part of you and can't be treated. You might feel that you can't talk about this part of yourself with others. This can make you feel very isolated. If you find it hard to be around people or go outside then you may feel lonely.
  • Impact on your physical health. Anxiety caused by obsessions can affect your physical health. You can read more about physical symptoms in our pages on anxiety.

Watch James, Pat and Nicola talk about what living with OCD is like and ways they have learned to cope.

I knew it was irrational...but tapping certain objects would ease the effect of the terrible intrusive thoughts. It would be time consuming but at least then I could feel like I wasn't a bad person.

Related disorders

There are some other mental health problems that are similar to OCD because they involve repetitive thoughts, behaviours or urges. They are sometimes called habit disorders.

Co-morbidity (having more than one diagnosis at the same time) with OCD is common, but it can sometimes make OCD difficult to diagnose and treat. For example, if you experience OCD you might be living with other mental health problems as well, such as anxiety or depression.

Experiences of

facing stigma

Lots of people have misconceptions about OCD.

Some people think it just means you wash your hands a lot or you like things to be tidy.

They might even make jokes about it.

This can be frustrating and upsetting, especially if people who think this are friends or family, colleagues or even healthcare professionals.

Stigma can make OCD feel difficult to talk about but it's important to remember you are not alone.

Here are some options for you to think about:

One of the most difficult things about OCD is how people perceive it. Intrusive thoughts and compulsions take a greater toll, yet people don't seem to understand that.

  • Show people this information to help them understand more about what your diagnosis really means.
  • Get more involved in your treatment. Our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem provide guidance on having your say in your treatment, making your voice heard, and steps you can take if you're not happy with your care.
  • Talk about your experience. Sharing your story can help improve people's understanding and change their attitudes.
  • Know your rights. Our pages on legal rights provide more information.
  • Take action with Mind. See our campaigning page for details of the different ways you can get involved with helping us challenge stigma.

 


This information was published in July 2016. We will revise it in 2019.


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