Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common condition in which a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.
It affects men, women and children, and can develop at any age. Some people develop the condition early, often around puberty, but it typically develops during early adulthood.
OCD can be distressing and significantly interfere with your life, but treatment can help you keep it under control.
Symptoms of OCD
If you have OCD, you’ll usually experience frequent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.
- An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters your mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease.
- A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that you feel you need to carry out to try to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought.
For example, someone with an obsessive fear of their house being burgled may feel they need to check all the windows and doors are locked several times before they can leave the house.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) affects people differently, but usually causes a particular pattern of thoughts and behaviours.
This pattern has 4 main steps:
- Obsession – where an unwanted, intrusive and often distressing thought, image or urge repeatedly enters your mind.
- Anxiety – the obsession provokes a feeling of intense anxiety or distress.
- Compulsion – repetitive behaviours or mental acts that you feel driven to perform as a result of the anxiety and distress caused by the obsession.
- Temporary relief – the compulsive behaviour temporarily relieves the anxiety, but the obsession and anxiety soon returns, causing the cycle to begin again.
It’s possible to just have obsessive thoughts or just have compulsions, but most people with OCD will experience both.
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