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.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has two main parts: obsessions and compulsions.
"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.
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:
"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."
There are some other mental health problems that are similar to OCD because they involve repetitive thoughts, behaviours or urges.
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 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.
These are some ideas you could try if you are concerned about stigma:
Our page on stigma and misconceptions includes more information on dealing with 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 and bibliography available on request.
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