What is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive, ritualized behaviors you feel compelled to perform. If you have OCD, you probably recognize that your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are irrational—but even so, you feel unable to resist them and break free. Like a needle getting stuck on an old record, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) causes the brain to get stuck on a particular thought or urge. For example, you may check the stove 20 times to make sure it’s really turned off, or wash your hands until they’re scrubbed raw.
Signs and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Just because you have obsessive thoughts or perform compulsive behaviors does NOT mean that you have obsessive-compulsive disorder. With OCD, these thoughts and behaviors cause tremendous distress, take up a lot of time, and interfere with your daily life and relationships. For example, you may check the stove 20 times to make sure it’s really turned off, or wash your hands until they’re scrubbed raw.
Most people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have both obsessions and compulsions, but some people experience just one or the other.
Common obsessive thoughts in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) include:
- Fear of being contaminated by germs or dirt or contaminating others
- Fear of losing control and harming yourself or others
- Intrusive sexually explicit or violent thoughts and images
- Excessive focus on religious or moral ideas
- Fear of losing or not having things you might need
- Order and symmetry: the idea that everything must line up “just right”
- Superstitions; excessive attention to something considered lucky or unlucky