what is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Let’s talk about obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and the ways someone can identify its symptoms.

Do you have worrying thoughts about contamination? Are you overly fastidious about keeping objects or clothes in perfect order? Do you have disturbing images of death, or worry about harm coming to a loved one because you weren’t careful enough?

If you’ve answered yes to the above questions, you might be suffering from OCD.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a condition in which the person has irrational fears (obsessions) and then tries to stop the anxiety that these fears produce by performing certain actions (compulsions).

The disorder tends to develop in people before they hit twenty and is thought to affect under 3% of the population at some point.

Anyone can suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, in the UK, famous footballer Paul Gascoigne wrote in his autobiography about his struggle with the condition. He recalled how he was often late for team practise games because he would have to return home several times to make sure he had locked the front door.

Other sufferers include Woody Allen, Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. David Beckham admits to having OCD. His wife Victoria has said that everything in the house has to be an even number, even cans of coke. If there are three, then he will throw one out.

The majority of people suffering from OCD have both the obsessions and the compulsions (around 70%), but there are some who only have the obsessions (20%) and the remainder who just get the compulsions (10%).

Most people would associate OCD with excessive hand washing and a problem with dirt and germs, but there is much more to this condition than that.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder occurs when a worry or concern becomes so time-consuming and out of hand that it dominates your every waking hour and your life. We all worry about germs and worldwide diseases, but we do not have to wash our hands over 200 times a day. This obviously impacts on our daily lives. Once it starts having an effect on your life, it is time to seek help. But how do you know you might be suffering from OCD?

Remember, the condition, for most people, comes in two parts, the obsessions and the compulsions to fix the obsessions.

We have listed some common obsessions and compulsions:

Common obsessions:

  1. Fear of catching a disease
  2. Fear of dirt or germs
  3. Fear of losing something valuable
  4. Fear of spreading a disease
  5. Worry about causing a flood or fire
  6. Fear of evil thoughts
  7. Fear of making a mistake.
  8. Fear of causing harm to someone
  9. Fear of inappropriate behaviour

Common compulsions:

  1. Performing excessive washing, cleaning or grooming rituals.
  2. Repeated checking light switches, oven knobs, door locks, car switches.
  3. Repeating particular words or phrases.
  4. Performing counting rituals, making objects an even or odd number.
  5. Always arranging things in a particular.
  6. Counting during routine tasks.
  7. Performing routine actions (touching a door jamb, glasses, etc.)
  8. Always checking things like locks or ovens.
  9. Collecting useless objects.

Stress appears to make the symptoms of OCD worse, but it is not known why it occurs in the first place. Research suggests it may be a combination of genes and environmental causes.

Sufferers are treated with both therapy and medication. The medication helps to reduce the anxious symptoms and the therapy assists in changing the behaviour.

Many people who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder do not manage to completely free themselves of their debilitating behaviours but can learn to manage their lives without it ruling them.


  1. http://www.spring.org.uk/
  2. http://www.ocdaction.org.uk/
  3. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

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Janey D.

Janey D.

Janey Davies has been published online for over 8 years. She is the head writer for Shoppersbase.com, she also writes for AvecAgnes.co.uk, Ewawigs.com and has contributed to inside3DP.com. She has an Honours Degree in Psychology and her passions include learning about the mind, popular science and politics. When she is relaxing she likes to walk her dog, read science fiction and listen to Muse.