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You are here: Disorders → Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

What is OCD?

OCD stands for obsessive compulsive disorder, which as it states in the name, is a presence of obsessions, compulsions or both. It is classed as an anxiety disorder where a person has obsessive, unwanted, disturbing thoughts and compulsive behaviours (which is when your thoughts have led you to do something repetitively again and again). These thoughts can be very distressing and unpleasant which can interfere in a person’s day to day life.

These thoughts can make you feel very uncomfortable, disgusted at yourself for thinking them, and very anxious. It could be images like harming someone that you love, like your spouse, parents, friends or even yourself, these are called Intrusive thoughts. You start to question yourself, as these thoughts don’t feel right to you, but they are your thoughts. You may start to think why would I think these if I didn’t want them to happen?

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My thoughts felt like a broken record, constantly replaying in my mind.
— Katy M

You may even worry that you have said or done something that was inappropriate or obsess over something you have said that may have caused someone to be upset, (you might have said something a day, a week or a month ago, it does not matter how long it was).

The way OCD works is you will have an obsessive thought, then you will feel anxious, then you will do your ‘compulsion’ which will give you a short-term sense of relief. Then the cycle starts all over again. This can happen multiple times a day.

There are other forms of OCD that can be just as terrifying to an individual, these however are classed as more common, such as;

  • Being afraid of contamination therefore they will constantly clean
  • Constantly checking things are locked and turned off before they leave anywhere
  • Wanting things done perfectly, and if they are not, they will punish themselves and re-do it until they feel at ease
  • Having things in order whether it’s by colour, size, or things in certain numbers

Video insight: What is obsessive compulsive disorder?

Why might someone develop OCD?

There is no direct answer to this as there are numerous ways someone may develop OCD, as everyone is different. There are many things that can play a part in OCD;

  • There may be a case of OCD in your family history
  • If someone has had a traumatic past or a certain life event, e.g. deceased of a loved one, being bullied or abused it may trigger OCD
  • If your personality is someone who likes to be neat and have everything a certain way, they may be more likely to develop OCD
  • It could merely be the fact that, that person has a stressful life and OCD feels like they have more control and less chaos of their life
  • It may be a relief to someone who has anxiety

Social attitudes and stigma

With OCD, like any other mental illness comes a lot of stigma, once people are aware of your mental illness, they may treat you differently whether it’s sub-consciously or otherwise, This is why it can take a long period of time before a person can open up about their problems. A person may even hinder the development and growth of social skills due to self-perception and a general lack of awareness from friends and family. There are many side effects because of this, you may start to isolate yourself and drop out of social activities for fear of judgement.

People may undermine your illness, or you may not be taken seriously, because they don’t understand or don’t think it’s important because of their lack of knowledge about OCD. It’s not about always being clean and tidy. Stigma and social attitudes can leave you feeling isolated, you may experience self-doubt and think you are not capable of basic activities.