Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


What is it?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety-based condition which causes a person to experience obsessive thoughts and the need to perform repetitive actions, usually due to the thought that something bad will happen if they do not.  This can involve a negative consequence for themselves, or for other people.  Around 12 people in every 1000 are affected.

The four categories of OCD are checking, contamination (phobia of germs), hoarding and intrusive thoughts.



  • Uncontrollable thoughts, impulses or worries.
  • Intrusive and disturbing thoughts.
  • Urges to perform certain behaviours such as turning a light bulb on and off multiple times.
  • The relief from performing the behaviour is short-lived, and subsequently needs to be repeated.
  • Day-to-day life being affected by the above thoughts and actions.



A variety of methods can be used to treat OCD.

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a method of psychological therapy which is designed to encourage the challenging of thoughts to reduce the thoughts and behaviours associated with OCD.
  • Medication can be prescribed to reduce anxiety, which can lead to a reduction in the symptoms of OCD.  This can be anti-depressants, usually Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac or Citalopram.  Medication can be taken alone or alongside therapy.
  • Self-management is needed by anyone with OCD, whether alongside other treatments or not.  This requires the person with OCD to try to control their symptoms in a way that suits them, so that they can continue to lead as normal a life as possible.


OCD is becoming increasingly recognised and the term can be used to describe behaviours which are not in fact OCD, or are not severe enough for a diagnosis.  It is therefore important to remember that OCD can only be diagnosed by a medical professional and if you have any of the symptoms, you should see your GP.


Further Reading

There are many relevant resources available where you can learn more about OCD, below are just some of the books published on the topic.

Antony, M.M., Rachman, S., Richer, M.A. and Swinson, R.P. (eds) (2002) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Theory, Research and Treatment.  Guildford Press.

Bell, J. (2007) Rewind, Replay, Repeat: A Memoir of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Hazelden Information and Educational Services.

Rachman, S.and de Silva, P. (2009) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: The Facts.  Oxford.  Oxford University Press.

Toates, F. and Coschug-Toates, O. (2002) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Class Publishing.

There are also a wide variety of relevant websites and forums on the internet, where further information can be found.