Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

OCD is an anxiety disorder that includes symptoms of unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive, ritualized behaviours (compulsions) that an individual ‘feels’ obligated to perform. OCD usually consists of both obsessions and compulsions, but an individual may only have one or the other.

Should I seek treatment for OCD?

It is normal to occasionally go back to double-check that your front door is locked, or that the stove is turned off. However, with OCD, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours become so extreme that they interfere with your daily life.

With support and strategies learned during treatment, people are able to take control and break free of these unwanted thoughts and urges. Optimal results are obtained with the combination of medications and psychological treatment.

Obsessions

Obsessions are repeated, persisted and unwanted urges or images that intrude during daily life, causing anxiety and/or distress.

Some examples include the following:

  • Fear of germs or dirt (e.g., fear of contamination by shaking hands or touching objects)
  • Needing order and symmetry (e.g., anxiety when objects are not orderly or arranged in a certain way)
  • Aggressive thoughts about harming yourself or others
  • Doubts about whether the door is locked, or the stove turned off
  • Unpleasant and repetitive sexual images
  • Fear of losing things you may need
  • Excessive focus on religion or morality
  • Superstitions about certain numbers, colours, arrangements, etc.

Compulsions

Compulsions are behaviours or rituals that you feel driven to perform repetitively. Usually compulsions are acted out in an attempt to get rid of obsessions, or to reduce anxiety related to your obsessions. However, performing the compulsions may only provide temporary relief from anxiety, and the obsessions often come back stronger.

Some examples include the following:

  • Washing and cleaning (e.g., washing your hands repeatedly)
  • Counting (Counting in certain patterns)
  • Checking (e.g., excessive double-checking of locks, appliances, switches)
  • Feeling obligated to follow a strict routine
  • Orderliness (e.g., arranging canned food items all facing the same way)
  • Repeating a word, phrase, or prayer excessively
  • Unable to throw away “junk” such as old food containers or newspapers