Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.

When individuals experience persistent and uncontrollable thoughts or feel compelled to repeat behaviors again and again, they are likely to be suffering from an obsessive-compulsive disorder.Obsessions are recurring thoughts that cannot be controlled and are so pervasive as to interfere with day-to-day functioning. Some obsessions may appear as extreme worrying or indecision in which the individual debates over and over again, “Should I do this or should I do that?” Compulsions are behaviors that are repeated continually to reduce distress or prevent something terrible from happening. For example, individuals with a compulsion to wash their hands for 20 minutes at a time may believe that this prevents germs and deadly disease. The fear is exaggerated, and the compulsion interferes with day-to-day activity. Individuals with an obsessive-compulsive disorder differ as to whether their symptoms are primarily obsessions, compulsions, or a mixture of the two.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder should be distinguished from obsessivecompulsive personality disorder, which refers, in general, to being preoccupied with rules, details, and schedules. Such individuals often are inflexible about moral issues and the behavior of others. Because they insist that others do things their way, their interpersonal relationships tend to be poor. Normally, they do not experience obsessions and compulsions. Although an important disorder, obsessivecompulsive personality disorder is not used as an example in this book.

Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings.

The symptoms of OCD include both obsessive and compulsive behaviors. Signs of obsession include:

  • Repeated unwanted ideas
  • Fear of contamination
  • Aggressive impulses
  • Persistent sexual thoughts
  • Images of hurting someone you love
  • Thoughts that you might cause others harm
  • Thoughts that you might be harmed

Signs of compulsion include:

  • Constant checking
  • Constant counting
  • The repeated cleaning of one or more items
  • Repeatedly washing your hands
  • Constantly checking the stove or door locks
  • Arranging items to face a certain way
  • Emotional Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Sufferers of OCD are generally very anxious and emotional. They display many non-OCD symptoms, such as signs of depression, excessive worry, extreme tension, and the constant feeling that nothing is ever right.

Physical Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Aside from the obvious compulsive behaviors a person with OCD displays, there are no physical signs of this disorder; however, a person with OCD can develop physical problems. For example, a person with a germ obsession may wash their hands so much that the skin on them becomes red, raw and painful.