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.
Supporting someone you know
Mental health problems are common, but nearly nine in ten people who have these experiences say they face stigma and discrimination as a result.
Being judged and isolated can be harder than the mental health problem itself. And without support from those around them, people with mental health problems can lose what they care about most: their job, their family and friends, their home.
Having a mate in your corner can make all the difference.
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.