Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) involves persistent and distressing thoughts (obsessions) over which a person feels no control. In response to these thoughts, people develop repetitive actions (compulsions) to try to prevent or reduce their obsession or prevent some dreaded event or situation from occurring. Excessive time is spent engaging in compulsive behavior. Obsessions and compulsions can manifest in many ways.
Examples of common obsessions:
- Repeated thoughts about being contaminated with germs (from shaking hands or touching objects)
- Repeated doubts (leaving appliances on, not securing the home properly)
- Concerns about harming loved ones
- Feeling that items must be arranged in a particular order (shoes, dishes, books, clothing)
Examples of common compulsions:
- Excessively washing one’s hands or showering again and again
- Excessive and repetitive cleaning or dusting
- Repeatedly checking doors, locks, appliances or light switches
- Arranging and re-arranging items in a particular, precise order
People with OCD usually realize their obsessions and compulsions are not reasonable, but can’t stop them. They are distressed by their thoughts and behaviors and how the OCD interferes with daily life. They often suffer needlessly because they are too embarrassed to let others know about their obsessions and compulsions. With the right professionals and the right treatment, people can recover OCD.