OCD is an anxiety disorder that can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex or ethnic origin. Individuals with OCD typically experience unwanted, repetitive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to an overwhelming need to carry out particular patterns of behaviour (compulsions) to reduce or control the obsessive thoughts. Any sense of control is temporary however. For some people, these obsessions can be upsetting, frightening or cause anxiety and distress. The obsessions and compulsions may be of such a level that they impact upon, and disrupt day to day life and emotional wellbeing.

OCD behaviours may include:

  • Constantly checking items are in order
  • Fear of germs or contamination
  • Constant hand washing
  • Sticking to a specific order in activities (e.g. when getting dressed/ undressed)
  • Patterns of touching objects or counting, or word sequences that have to be followed
  • Fear of consequences happening if particular routines or rituals are not followed

Sometimes the symptoms of OCD can worsen when an individual is feeling overwhelmed or stressed. For others, the symptoms can seem to fade, but often resurface at a later date if not properly treated. Fortunately, treatment can help to reduce the impact of OCD symptoms.


It is not yet clear where the origin of OCD lies. Research has suggested genetics may be implicated whilst others studies have suggested brain differences, significant life events or personality traits may predispose some people to onset. Further research is needed to fully understand the causes of OCD.


OCD can co-exist with a variety of other mental health difficulties including generalised anxiety disorder or depression. Psychiatrists can help to identify if what you’re experiencing is OCD and if appropriate provide a diagnosis. They can help to develop a treatment plan, specifically tailored to your individual needs and help to address any additional difficulties. Treatment can help to reduce the impact OCD has on your day to day life.

Treatment may include a psychiatric script to target specific symptoms or psychological therapies such as CBT to target obsessive thoughts.

It is important when you meet with your Psychiatrist to provide as full a picture of your symptoms as possible, as well as what does and does not help in managing them. Your Psychiatrist will be interested in the effect the symptoms have on your relationships, work and quality of life. You may be asked about your family history (if known) and your physical health. Your Psychiatrist may suggest referring you for further treatment and support with a psychologist or therapist.

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