Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety-related disorder that affects approximately 750,000 people in the UK each year. People can experience symptoms of OCD at any time in their lives. Children as young as six have been diagnosed with OCD, and 25% of cases are diagnosed before the age of 14. Men who have OCD usually display symptoms between the ages of 10-19, whereas for women symptoms usually surface in their early 20’s.

There are two main elements of OCD – these are the ‘obsessions’ and the ‘compulsions’. Obsessions are unwelcome or ‘intrusive’ thoughts that will come into your head seemingly randomly and repeatedly throughout the day. These are involuntary and unwelcome, and can be images, doubts, questions, or fears which can make you feel anxious or uncomfortable.

These obsessions then trigger compulsions. These are repetitive activities people feel they have to do in order to deal with the anxiety that stems from obsessive thoughts. People with OCD usually have to keep doing the activity until the discomfort eases and things feel ‘right’ again. They may know that it doesn’t make sense to do the activity, but the urge to carry it out can feel impossible to ignore. Repeating the compulsion can be time consuming and sometimes harmful, and the relief they give doesn’t usually last for that long.

Some common obsessions include:

  • Contamination from dirt, germs, and viruses
  • Fear of harm
  • Excessive concern with order or symmetry
  • Religious, sacrilegious or blasphemous thoughts
  • Sexual thoughts
  • Thoughts of violence or aggression

Some common compulsions include:

  • Repeatedly checking that things are locked
  • Keeping things symmetrical, so if you bang your left hand, banging your right hand too
  • Cleaning and washing, such as your home or yourself
  • Mental compulsions, such as repeatedly saying special words or prayers
  • Hoarding or collecting things
  • Counting or doing things a set number of times, such as tapping three times

Unfortunately, there are many common misconceptions about OCD, such as the idea that people with the disorder simply like being clean and keeping things neat. OCD is much more than this; in reality it’s not about what people simply ‘want’ or ‘need’ to do, but more about what people feel overwhelmingly compelled to do after experiencing an intrusive thought. Some people also make light of the condition by saying things like ‘I’m a bit OCD, I like things to be done a certain way’, which people with OCD can find upsetting and harmful. Phrases like these belittle the experiences of someone with OCD and helps to keep these untrue and degrading stereotypes of the disorder alive.

If you are someone with OCD, support someone with OCD, or think you might have OCD, we’ve put together a list of great organisations who can offer you further information and support below.