Obsessions and compulsions

Do you… ?

  • Wash your hands repeatedly?
  • Spend large amounts of time repeatedly checking things?
  • Feel that you have to do certain things in a specific order?
  • Repeatedly count things to a certain number?
  • Have continually repeating thoughts that you find upsetting?
  • Avoid certain situations because you fear you may do something bad?

What is Obsessional Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

OCD is characterised by distressing intrusive thoughts, and usually a compulsion to perform activities such as checking or cleaning.

Symptoms include:

  • Repetitive behaviours such as handwashing, cleaning, checking, or counting.
  • Repetitive mental acts such as praying or repeating words silently.
  • Recurrent intrusive thoughts, urges or mental pictures that may not make sense and cause you anxiety and distress.
  • Your symptoms may take up a lot of your time and attention and make you (and perhaps others around you) stressed and unhappy. They can also lead you to limit the scope of the things that you do in your life.

Some people also feel compelled to pick their skin or pull their hair. For details on habit problems, please click here.

How common is it?

OCD is the fourth most common mental health condition. In the UK 1% of the population –1 have OCD. This is probably an under-estimate though because many people feel too embarrassed to tell someone about it and other people are not aware that their suffering is recognised as a clinical condition.

What can I do about it?

The National Institute for Clincial Excellence (NICE) recommends two main treatments for OCD: psychological therapy including cognitive behavioural therapy and medication. Guided Self Help may also be of benefit. Depending on your circumstances, you may benefit from one of these types of treatment or a combination of the two.

If you would like to know more about Guided Self Help or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, please contact us. Alternatively, you may wish to speak to your GP about a referral to our service.

Further information

The organisations below may be able to offer you further support in dealing with your OCD. Both organisations provide support to sufferers and their families.

OCD Action