Roughly 2% of adults currently have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and twice that many have had it at some point in their lives. This disorder is characterised by uncontrollable obsessions and compulsions that are excessive, unreasonable, and distressing.

Obsessions are intrusive or inappropriate recurring thoughts or impulses that cause anxiety. Common obsessive thoughts include:

  1. Thoughts that one is contaminated by germs, dirt, or other substances,
  2. Doubts about whether you correctly completed a task such as locking the door or turning off the stove,
  3. Aggressive impulses,
  4. Thoughts that you may have accidentally harmed someone,
  5. Embarrassing or distressing thoughts of a sexual, religious/sacrilegious, or inappropriate nature,
  6. A looming feeling that something "bad" is going to happen.

Compulsions, on the other hand, are repetitive behaviours or rituals that are performed to reduce anxiety or neutralise the obsessive thought. Compulsions may involve behaviours such as:

  1. Excessive cleaning and washing,
  2. Hoarding of useless items,
  3. Checking and re-checking,
  4. Repetitive time consuming routines,
  5. Saying or thinking certain things to get rid of, or make amends for, the obsessive thought.

In most cases, OCD usually involves having both obsessions and compulsions; however, a person with OCD may have only one or the other.

Treatment

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a treatable condition. Treatments such as Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, which includes Exposure and Response Prevention, have repeatedly been shown to be the most powerful treatments for reducing or eliminating OCD.