Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Minor obsessions and compulsions are common. We all worry occasionally about whether we’ve locked the door or left the iron on at home, and you might hear people described as being ‘obsessed’ with work or sport. But you wouldn’t usually describe these thoughts as unwanted, and they don’t interfere significantly with everyday life.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder where unwanted thoughts, urges and repetitive activities become an obstacle to living life as you want to. People who experience OCD often try to cope until they can’t hide the symptoms any longer. This can make them feel very alone and make overcoming the OCD more difficult.

What is OCD?

"When it started going wrong, I became frightened of stepping on something dirty and carrying a deadly infection around with me. Pretty soon I could only ride my bike while looking down at the ground for fear of riding through something infectious. It was too dangerous to ride like that and I had to stop.” (Reece) OCD: getting back on my bike

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) typically has two parts: obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are unwelcome thoughts, ideas or urges that appear repeatedly in the mind and interrupt everyday thinking. Compulsions are repetitive activities you feel you have to do, usually to ‘put right’ the anxiety and distress caused by the obsessive thoughts.

It’s thought that 1 to 2 per cent of the population have OCD that is severe enough to disrupt their normal life. It can affect people of all ages and from all backgrounds.

Find out more about symptoms, treatments and tips for managing it on the NHS and Mind websites.

The stigma around OCD

"OCD is often stereotyped but actually not well understood by the majority, so there are worries about the judgements people will make out of ignorance.” (Thea) Common assumptions about OCD make explaining it harder

People with mental health problems say that the stigma and discrimination surrounding their mental health problem can be one of the hardest parts of their day to day experience. As a result of the stigma, we might shy away from supporting a friend, family member or colleague. And the consequences can be huge. People with mental health problems can lose friendships, feel isolated, withdraw from the world and not get the help they need.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Talking about mental health shows someone you care about them. It aids recovery, and friendships are often strengthened in the process.

Why not add your name to our pledge wall to join the thousands of people who are taking small steps to be more open about mental health?

Personal blogs about living with OCD

Do you want to find out more about obsessive-compulsive disorder? Read blogs and personal stories written by people with personal experience of OCD. By talking openly, our bloggers hope to increase understanding around mental health, break down stereotypes and take the taboo out of something that – like physical health – affects us all.

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