Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the experience of unwanted thoughts, impulses, urges, or images that cause anxiety. These are described as obsessions. Or they may experience compulsions, which are actions and behaviours such as hand-washing, counting, or praying. These actions become repetitive as they lead to the anxiety caused by the obsession to reduce. A person with OCD experiences anxiety if they cannot complete their compulsions. People with OCD commonly experience both obsessions and compulsions.
Many people have rituals and routines they like to follow. However, someone with OCD experiences high anxiety in relation to their obsessions and compulsions. Rather than feeling the need to clean the house simply because they enjoy it being clean, someone with an OCD focused on cleanliness will feel anxiety, or that something terrible will happen, if they do not clean their house thoroughly.
The types of places and situations that a person with OCD may want to avoid will vary. Some common examples of obsessions and compulsions include:
- Fear of germs and being contaminated
- Fear that they have done something to cause a disaster
(e.g. a fire or accident)
- Fear that they will act in a violent way after having intrusive violent images
- Fear of having done something terrible, leading to frequent confessions to another of minor mistakes