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.
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.
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.