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Obsessive. Compulsive. Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts ("obsessions") and/or behaviours ("compulsions") that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.

People with OCD may have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions, or both. These symptoms can interfere with all aspects of life, such as work, school, and personal relationships.

Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety. Common symptoms include:

  • Fear of germs or contamination

  • Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, or harm

  • Aggressive thoughts towards others or self

  • Having things symmetrical or in a perfect order

Compulsions are repetitive behaviours that a person with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought. Common compulsions include:

  • Excessive cleaning and/or handwashing

  • Ordering and arranging things in a particular, precise way

  • Repeatedly checking on things, such as repeatedly checking to see if the door is locked or that the oven is off

  • Compulsive counting

Not all rituals or habits are compulsions. Everyone double checks things sometimes. But a person with OCD generally:

  • Can't control his or her thoughts or behaviours, even when those thoughts or behaviours are recognized as excessive

  • Spends at least 1 hour a day on these thoughts or behaviours

  • Doesn’t get pleasure when performing the behaviours or rituals, but may feel brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts cause

  • Experiences significant problems in their daily life due to these thoughts or behaviours

Some individuals with OCD also have a tic disorder. Motor tics are sudden, brief, repetitive movements, such as eye blinking and other eye movements, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and head or shoulder jerking. Common vocal tics include repetitive throat-clearing, sniffing, or grunting sounds.

Symptoms may come and go, ease over time, or worsen. People with OCD may try to help themselves by avoiding situations that trigger their obsessions, or they may use alcohol or drugs to calm themselves. Although most adults with OCD recognize that what they are doing doesn’t make sense, some adults and most children may not realize that their behaviour is out of the ordinary. Parents or teachers typically recognize OCD symptoms in children.

If you think you have OCD, talk to your health care provider about your symptoms. If left untreated, OCD can interfere in all aspects of life.

Some common obsessions include:

  • intense worry about catching a disease or infection

  • thinking about having to do things in a certain order or number of times to feel safe and reduce anxiety

  • fear of acting inappropriately

  • fear of harming others or yourself, even though you may have no intention to do so

You may have unwanted sexual thoughts or images that you fear you may act on. While these thoughts can be distressing, it does not mean you will act on them.

Getting help

Get help if you think you have OCD and it's having a negative impact on your life.

If you think a friend has OCD, find out if their thoughts or behaviours are causing problems for them. For example, in their daily routines and quality of life.

OCD is unlikely to get better on its own. Treatment and support can help you manage your symptoms.

To get help, talk to your GP. They can refer you to local psychological support services.

Tips for dealing with OCD

selfcare for OCD

7 strategies to deal with OCD

OCD in Children

Paediatric OCD

Helping a child with OCD





Information used on this page is gathered from.

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