Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a condition where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour. An obsession is an unwanted, unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters a person's mind, causing them anxiety.

A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that someone feels they need to carry out to try to prevent an obsession coming true. For example, someone who is obsessively scared they will catch a disease may feel the need to have a shower every time they use a toilet.

Symptoms of OCD

OCD symptoms can range from mild to severe. For example, some people with OCD may spend an hour or so a day engaged in obsessive-compulsive thinking and behaviour. For others, the condition can completely take over their life. Although OCD affects individuals differently, most people with the condition fall into a set pattern of thought and behaviour.

The pattern has four main steps:
  • OBSESSION – your mind is overwhelmed by a constant obsessive fear or concern, such as the fear your house will be burgled
  • ANXIETY – this obsession provokes a feeling of intense anxiety and distress
  • COMPULSION – you adopt a pattern of compulsive behaviour to reduce your anxiety and distress, such as checking all your windows and doors are locked at least three times before leaving the house
  • TEMPORARY RELIEF– the compulsive behaviour brings temporary relief from anxiety but the obsession and anxiety soon return, causing the cycle to begin again

Severity of OCD?

The severity of OCD can be determined by how much your symptoms affect your ability to function normally on a day-to-day basis. The disruption of daily function is referred to as functional impairment. OCD is classified into three levels of severity, mild, moderate and severe.

Treating OCD?

If you are diagnosed with OCD, your treatment plan will depend on how much the condition affects your ability to function. OCD is usually treated with CBT or antidepressants.
CBT is used to change the way you think and behave to reduce your anxiety. Medication may be appropriate to control symptoms so that the CBT can be given a chance to work.


If you have OCD, seeking help is the most important thing you can do. Left untreated, it is unlikely your OCD symptoms will improve, and they may get worse.

Without treatment, nearly half of people with OCD still have symptoms 30 years later.
With treatment, the outlook for OCD is good and many people will achieve a complete cure, or at least reduce symptoms enough to be able to enjoy a good quality of life.