What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A very simple description of OCD is that it is a condition in which an individual experiences recurrent obsessions and/or compulsions. Recurrent obsessions and compulsions are OCD symptoms.

Obsessions are ideas, thoughts, images, or impulses that are senseless and “get in the way”.  They continue even though a person may try to ignore or forget about them.  They are experienced as unpleasant and unwanted and may provoke anxiety, guilt, shame, or other uncomfortable emotions.

Compulsions, also called rituals, are usually actions that are repeated, but sometimes are thought patterns that are performed to rid oneself of a disturbing obsession. Rituals are usually carried out according to certain rules or in a rigid fashion and are clearly excessive.  The person might recognize that the rituals are not reasonable but feels unable to control them.

The obsessions and compulsions can be extremely time-consuming, often taking up many hours of a person’s day. As a result, OCD frequently causes significant emotional distress, and may greatly interfere with academic and professional functioning, as well as interpersonal relationships.

Some examples of obsessions are:

  • exaggerated fears of contamination from contact with people or everyday items
  • nagging doubts about having locked the windows or the doors to the home, car, or garage
  • excessive concerns about having turned off the stove, hair dryer, coffee pot, or other household appliances
  • overwhelming urges to arrange items in a particular order so that they are “just right”
  • fears of committing a harmful, violent, sexually inappropriate, immoral, or sacrilegious action

Some examples of compulsions are:

  • repeatedly washing hands or showering
  • excessively using anti-bacterial cleaning products in an effort to eradicate potential contaminants
  • avoiding contact with everyday objects such as sinks, toilets, doorknobs, money, or virtually anything that an individual could construe as being contaminated
  • frequently checking door locks, windows, light switches, electrical outlets, etc.
  • unnecessarily arranging the contents of one’s desk, closets, cabinets, bookshelves, etc., or straightening household objects such as window blinds or rugs
  • hoarding useless items such as old newspapers, magazines, receipts, worn-out clothes, or other objects that most people would perceive as garbage
  • repeatedly saying prayers to ensure that one has not or will not commit an unacceptable, inappropriate, or immoral action
  • continually seeking assurance from others that one has not or will not commit an unacceptable, inappropriate, or immoral action