Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

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

Your stories

OCD and me

OCD symptoms can be distressing and disruptive to the lives of those that struggle with the disorder. A member

Posted on 03/11/2017

Dealing with intrusive thoughts

Amber blogs about how her OCD can came in the form of intrusive thoughts and how she deals with it.

Amber
Posted on 06/08/2018

Living with OCD

Charlotte blogs about her experience of OCD and how it affects her day-to-day life.

Posted on 23/06/2016

What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) 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 at other times they may make your day-to-day life really difficult. They may be more severe when you are stressed about other things, like life changes, health, money, work or relationships.

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 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 a relationship may make it too difficult to continue.
  • Feeling ashamed or lonely. You may feel ashamed of your obsessive thoughts, or worry that they can't be treated. You might want to hide this part of you from other people, and find it hard to be around people or to go outside. This can make you feel isolated and lonely.
  • Feeling anxious. You may find that your obsessions and compulsions are making you feel anxious and stressed. For example, some people feel that they become slaves to their compulsions and have to carry them out so frequently that they have little control over them. You can read more about anxiety here

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.

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.

Related disorders

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

If you have OCD, it is common to have other mental health problems as well, such as anxiety or depression. This can sometimes make OCD difficult to diagnose or treat. 

OCD and 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, or describe themselves as a 'little bit OCD'. 

This can be frustrating and upsetting, especially if someone who feels this way is a friend, colleague, family member or a healthcare professional.

Stigma about OCD can make it difficult to talk about, but it's important to remember you are not alone, and you don't have to put up with people treating you badly.

You can read more about stigma, and how to deal with it, here. These are some options that you can also about:

  • 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.
  • 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.

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.


This information was published in May 2019. We will revise it in 2022. References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information see our page on permissions and licensing.


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