OCD characterised by intrusive thoughts and compulsive actions such as checking, counting or hoarding. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic (long-term) mental health condition that is usually associated with obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour. An obsession is an unwanted, unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters a person’s mind and results in anxiety. A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that a person feels compelled to perform to try to avert or undo the effect of the obsession.
OCD is one of the most common mental health conditions. It is estimated that up to 3 in 100 adults and up to 5 in 100 children and teenagers have OCD. OCD usually starts in early adult life, with men tending to report earlier symptoms than women. However, OCD symptoms can begin at any time, including childhood.
The symptoms of OCD can range from mild to severe. For example, some people with OCD will spend about an hour a day engaged in obsessive compulsive thinking and behaviour. For others, the condition can completely take over their life.
The causes of OCD are unknown, although there are several theories. If you have OCD, seeking help is the most important thing you can do. Left untreated, the symptoms of OCD may not improve. In some cases they will get worse. Without treatment, nearly half of people with OCD still have symptoms 30 years later.
With treatment, the outlook for OCD is good. Some people will achieve a complete cure. Even if a complete cure is not achievable, treatment can reduce the severity of your symptoms and help you to achieve a good quality of life. A form of psychotherapy, known as cognitive behavioural therapy, which includes graded exposure and response prevention, is a proven treatment with a high rate of success in OCD. This may also be combined with medication, such as antidepressants.