What is OCD

Please note:  The information on this page should not be construed as medical advice, nor should it be used to diagnose or treat any condition. The content on this page is written by recovered OCD sufferers, not by clinicians. Read More

A Comprehensive Guide: what is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, how do you know if you have it, and what can you do about it?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder OCD is a mental disorder that features unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead to repetitive and compulsive behaviors (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities, cause significant distress, and be debilitating.

Obsessions are intrusive thoughts, urges, or images that cause distress or anxiety and can be challenging to control.Compulsions are the behaviors someone with OCD feels they have to do in response to an obsession. 

They can take up a lot of time and energy and make it hard to get through the day.People with OCD may try to ignore, suppress, or neutralize their obsessions by performing some kind of behavior in response. It might include mental rituals such as counting repeating words silently.If you’re experiencing OCD symptoms, it’s essential to seek help from a mental health professional.

OCD symptoms include

OCD sufferers can have many symptoms, including obsessive thoughts, compulsive actions, or feelings that are not wanted. Here are three of the most common obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms.

-Unwanted thoughts and images. These can often be violent and sexual in nature (such as harming oneself or others but are more familiar with the fear of being responsible for something.

-Having to repeat actions a certain number of times to be safe or feel right. 

It includes closing and opening doors, locking or unlocking locks, turning on and off appliances, turning on and off lights, doing things in a particular order, etc

-Avoiding situations and objects out of fear that your OCD will get triggered. 

It includes avoiding people, places, objects, or situations.

The most disturbing compulsions are often the mental ones. 

These terrorizing thoughts can be horrific and repeat inside the sufferer’s head, making them feel terrible about themselves. 

One example is “Pure O,” which involves intrusive sexual thoughts, taboo thoughts, and anything against a person’s moral code.

OCD is often misunderstood as merely hand-washing or an obsessive need to organize things. Although these are common compulsions carried out by people with OCD, they are just the tip of the iceberg. 

While hand-washing and organization are very common, they are not necessarily the compulsions that most people with OCD carry out. 

OCD goes beyond its symptoms and profoundly negatively affects a person’s daily life and relationships with others.

Treatment options for OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medication, or a combination of the two. 

Treatment usually starts with Metacognitive Therapy (MCT) which helps you understand and change your thinking and behavior. 

Followed by exposure and response prevention (ERP), which helps you face your fears and not carry out any compulsions.

It involves gradually exposing you to the situations that make you anxious while teaching you skills to help you face your fears without reacting with compulsive behaviors. ERP helps you gradually face your fears instead of avoiding them. 

ERP repeatedly provokes a response, and when there is no compulsion, the anxiety and urge to do your compulsive behavior will decrease. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way to overcome it.

After successful treatment with ERP, you can move on to another type of cognitive-behavioral therapy called cognitive restructuring. 

A therapist helps you identify and change the thinking patterns that lead to your compulsive behavior.You can learn not to let OCD control your life by accepting it, living with it, and learning strategies to manage the symptoms. When done correctly, you are on your OCD recovery journey for a better life.

Not all respond to treatment.

Sadly, not everyone responds to treatment. Some may have “treatment-resistant” OCD that doesn’t improve even after trying multiple therapies and medicines. For severe cases and treatment-resistant, there are other options.

If you’re struggling with treatment-resistant OCD, don’t give up hope. There are still options available; your doctor may recommend trying a different type of antidepressant or tricyclic antidepressants, sometimes a combination of antipsychotic medicines like Risperdal, Abilify, or Zyprexa, in combination with antidepressants are used.

For treatment-resistant sufferers, TMS can be used — a treatment in which a doctor directs an electromagnet to stimulate nerve cells in the brain — has been shown to help to reduce OCD symptoms.

Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation, or Deep TMS for short, is a non-invasive treatment that works by stimulating your brain with magnetic fields. It helps to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders. 

DBS Deep brain stimulation — implanting electrodes into the brain to help regulate faulty nerve impulses — is also a treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The electrodes are connected to a battery pack that’s worn under your skin. 

The stimulator sends electrical pulses to the brain, which help block the abnormal nerve impulses that cause obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Deep brain stimulation is reserved for people who haven’t responded well to other treatments or have a severe form of OCD.

The best tip for OCD sufferers is to accept and live with the uncertainty. Once you accept the uncertainty, you will find that the anxiety will slowly dissipate. 

It sounds so easy, and yes, it is; at the same time, it can feel like jumping out from an airplane without knowing 100% if the parachute will open or not. It’s not until you fully accept the uncertainty your recovery journey can start.

There is hope for those living with treatment-resistant OCD. You can overcome your disorder and live a happy, healthy life with the proper treatment and the right mindset; it’s possible to get well again.

What are Obsessions and Compulsions?

Obsessions are unwelcome, intrusive thoughts that cause anxiety or distress. The unwanted thought can be about anything, violence, contamination, sex, or religion.They are often taboos and very disturbing to you. 

This thought will lead to uncontrolled anxiety, and you will try to neutralize or “undo” the thought by performing a behavior.Compulsions are the mental and physical behaviors someone with OCD does to relieve anxiety.

When a person experiences an anxiety trigger (obsession), you feel as if you must do something to ease the anxiety caused by the obsession.

For example, someone experiencing an obsession about harm coming to a family member may need to check on them repeatedly throughout the day.

Similarly, someone struggling with a sexual obsession, such as unwanted and inappropriate thoughts about sex, may feel the need to perform mental compulsions/rituals to get rid of the evil thought.

This behavior is referred to as a compulsion. Many compulsions are performed ritualistically, usually according to a specific sequence of steps that must be followed precisely.

The take-home point about compulsions is that they are intended to reduce anxiety but ultimately can cause more significant distress than the obsession itself.

Let’s Talk About Compulsions

A compulsion is an action that a person performs to get rid of or neutralize the obsession.Sufferers struggling with compulsions feel they cannot stop the behavior due to obsessive fears.

For example, someone experiencing obsessive fears about their house burning down may feel the need to check the stove over and over again, even though you know it’s turned off.

Compulsions can become very time-consuming and take up many hours of an OCD sufferer’s day. An example is someone who has an intense fear of getting sick and dying may feel the need to wash their hand’s hundreds of times a day to ease the anxiety.

Compulsions can be either internal or external.

Internal compulsions involve performing a mental ritual to ease the anxiety. Many OCD Sufferers will engage in mental rituals to stop the obsessive thoughts from coming back.

External compulsions involve the person carrying out actions to try and reduce their anxiety. 

Internal compulsions are often more difficult for people to understand because they involve performing the ritual in the head.

From a non-sufferers perspective, it can be challenging to understand how carrying out a mental ritual is helpful. In reality, these rituals work by temporarily reducing anxiety and stress caused by obsessive thoughts.

If asked to describe the internal compulsions, most OCD sufferers will say they find these compulsions to be extremely difficult to resist. In the absence of compulsions, OCD symptoms can feel as if they are out of control and will often escalate until the sufferer is in a state of panic.

The need to carry out compulsions in OCD is often described as being “irresistible,” “overpowering,” and “unwelcome.”

When you do not engage in compulsions, you feel the world will fall apart. You think you can not cope if they don’t do the compulsion.

One of the biggest misconceptions about OCD is that the disorder is just about being a perfectionist or having an overactive need to have things orderly.

Some people with OCD are indeed perfectionists, but the reality is that this obsessive need for perfection often stems from an attempt to reduce anxiety by making sure nothing “bad” happens.

In most cases, OCD is not about needing things to be clean or organized; it’s about the anxiety and stress caused by obsessive thoughts.

How Is OCD Diagnosed?

OCD is diagnosed in someone who has intrusive, unwanted thoughts, obsessions, and compulsions that take up more than 1 hour a day and interfere with everyday life and functioning.

The symptoms must cause significant distress or problems in life, such as at work or school or relationships with others.

People with OCD can’t control their thoughts and behaviors. Even though they know the anxiety is irrational, they still feel strong urges to do something to neutralize their obsessions, usually a compulsive ritual like washing their hands or cleaning, checking things, counting, touching, hoarding, or repeating words silently.

Who can Diagnosis?

Only trained psychiatrists or psychologists can diagnose OCD. There is a lot of overlap with other disorders such as ADHD, depression, and anxiety disorders. 

It can feel like there are a lot of disorders floating around, which is why it’s essential to find the right doctor who knows about these conditions.

Who Gets Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

A faulty belief system is one factor that contributes. The cognitive model of OCD proposes that the dysfunctional beliefs and assumptions instigated by emotional dysfunction create a vulnerability to OCD and are maintained by faulty coping strategies.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can affect anyone at any age, but it typically starts during the teenage years or early adulthood. 

It is estimated that women and men have an almost equal prevalence of obsessive-compulsive disorders, but women tend to experience these disorders earlier and with more obsessions relating to food and weight.

Some people may be more likely to develop obsessive-compulsive disorder because of their genes, brain chemistry, and life experiences. 

But what triggers OCD in one person may not cause it in another. Family history is a risk factor, but it’s not destiny. People that are sensitive and with strong imagination capabilities are more prone to develop OCD. 

I mean by the sensitivity that people who are more easily affected by different situations may be more likely to develop OCD because they think and feel things more intensely than others.

Feel things more intensely can, of course, be a gift, but at the same time, it can become a curse for the OCD sufferer.

A neuropsychiatric disorder can also be at play; this is when the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake. This disorder can affect the brain and other parts of the nervous system, causing symptoms like OCD.

Autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders

The autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder is a medical condition in which the immune system causes neurological and psychiatric impairment. 

The immune system is composed of cells that attack infections, and autoimmune disorders occur when cells of the immune system attack the body’s cells.

Treatment for autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders often involves a combination of medication and therapy to address the neurological and psychiatric symptoms.

For example, the treatment plan may include antibiotics if the autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder is related to streptococcus bacteria.

Symptoms associated with autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders often fluctuate between periods of remission and relapse.

Mindfulness for OCD

Mindfulness involves being fully aware of the present moment without judgment. It’s a form of meditation that can help you learn to accept your thoughts and feelings rather than trying to fight them or get rid of them.

When you’re mindful, you’re not caught up in your thoughts that you lose sight of what’s happening around you. It can be helpful when you’re struggling with intrusive thoughts or urges.

Mindfulness may not cure, but it can help you manage your symptoms and deal with the stress that comes with them. There are many ways to learn mindfulness, including meditation classes, books, and audio recordings.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. The best treatment plan will depend on your symptoms and how severe they are. If you’re struggling with OCD symptoms, it’s essential to get help. Don’t try to tough it out on your own.

Living With OCD

It’s not easy living with OCD, but you can learn to manage your symptoms. The most important thing is to seek treatment and stick with it. Support from family and friends also helps. 

An active and healthy lifestyle will also contribute when living with OCD. You may also want to join an OCD support group; these groups offer a safe and supportive environment where you can share your experiences and advice with others who understand what you’re going through.

OCD Types

Obsessive-compulsive disorder themes vary from person to person and can impact a person’s life in various ways. Obsessions about body image, sexual orientation, morality, religious beliefs, and checking are very common for those who struggle.

OCD is all too often misunderstood as being mere hand-washing or an obsessive need to have things organized. Although these are common compulsions carried out by people with OCD, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

While hand-washing and organization are very common, they are not necessarily the compulsions that most people with OCD carry out. Some compulsions may be mental or behavioral.

For example, some sufferers count when walking down the street, others hoard trivial items such as bottle tops, and others repeat phrases silently in their heads.The most difficult to deal with are often the mental ones. 

These can be horrific sexual or violent thoughts that repeat inside a sufferer’s head, making them feel terrible about themselves.

One example is “Pure O,” which involves intrusive sexual thoughts, taboo thoughts, and anything else that goes against the person’s moral code. 

To try and lessen the anxiety brought about by these terrifying thoughts, sufferers will engage in compulsions such as prayer or mental reviewing.

In general, the mechanism in OCD is all the same. It does not matter what type of theme you have. The symptoms are all the same, as well as treatments.

Some people may feel like they are “the only one” who experiences these thoughts or fears, but this is not the case. OCD is ubiquitous; you don’t need to have OCD to have wired and horrific thoughts. 

Horrific and wired thoughts affect everyone. The only difference with “everyone” is that they can let go of the thought. OCD sufferers tend to be stuck. 

It is important to remember that you are not alone and that help is available.If you think that you or a loved one may be struggling with OCD, please seek help from a mental health professional. There is no shame in getting help; treatment can make a huge difference in your life.

Here are the most common types of OCD thems:

-Checking OCD

Checking OCD is not checking as a normal routine- it’s a disorder that causes someone to check over something over and over again obsessively. 

-Existential OCD​

Existential OCD is a type that focuses on the fear of the unknown and the fear of death. Suffer often has intrusive thoughts about their mortality or the meaning of life. They may also have compulsive rituals that are meant to ease their anxiety about these things.

-False Memory OCD

False Memory OCD is a type that involves intrusive thoughts like committing a crime, such as harming a child. They often worry that they will forget about what they have done and end up in jail. 

Sufferers may spend a lot of time trying to disprove or forget their thoughts. Sufferers also have rituals that are meant to ease their anxiety about these thoughts.

-Harm OCD

Harm OCD involves intrusive thoughts about harming yourself or others. These thoughts can be bothersome and may cause a great deal of anxiety. 

Sufferers may worry that they will become violent and hurt someone, while others may obsess over potentially deadly accidents or scenarios.

-Hoarding OCD

Hoarding OCD is a type that involves the persistent need to hoard items. Sufferers may feel like they need to save everything, no matter how useless it is. They also have difficulty getting rid of any possessions, even if they don’t need them.

-“Just Right” OCD

“Just Right” OCD is a subtype that involves the need for things to be perfect or “just right.” Things can never be “just right,” but sufferers with this type have an overwhelming desire and obsession with achieving perfection or seeking the “just right” feeling.

-Magical Thinking OCD

This type of OCD is characterized by irrational thoughts and fears that are often religious or superstitious. You may believe that something terrible will happen if you don’t follow through with a compulsion, such as performing a specific ritual or praying a certain number of times.

-Postpartum OCD

Postpartum OCD is a type of anxiety disorder that can affect women after they give birth—diagnosed when a woman has obsessive thoughts and compulsions related to her baby or post-birth experiences.

-Purely Obsessional OCD (Pure-O)

Puro-O is a type that consists only of obsessions. But in general, the sufferer is doing compulsions (rituals) to make the intrusive thought disappear.

People with Pure-O often keep their obsessive thoughts to themselves because they are ashamed, embarrassed, or fear that others will think they’re crazy.

-Real Events OCD

Real event OCD occurs when you have obsessive thoughts about an event in your life. The thing could be unimportant to others, but it’s something dead series for someone like you.

-Relationship OCD (R-OCD)

Also known as ROCD, a type of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder that can affect people differently. If you have Relationship OCD, you may have persistent thoughts that tell you your partner isn’t right for you or is cheating on you even when this is not true.

-Scrupulosity (Religious) OCD

A common form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder affects how individuals perceive their Relationship with God. 

Sufferers experience unwanted and obsessive thoughts about offending God, committing sins, or displeasing religious figures.

-Sexual Orientation OCD (SO-OCD)

The sufferer has unwanted intrusive thoughts about sex. You may obsess about being attracted to a child, being gay, straight, or bi when you really are not. 

This thought goes against your moral beliefs and your sexual orientation.You may feel the need to repeatedly check your genitals for signs of arousal or perform rituals (such as counting or praying). 

Counting OCD

This type of OCD involves the persistent need to count things. It includes various routines that you may have, such as counting steps while walking or counting pieces of food.

It’s very common to have more than one type of OCD; you might have Harming OCD, Counting OCD, Magical thinking OCD, etc. 

The important thing is not how many OCD types you have; the important thing is to learn how to deal with each and accept the thoughts for what they are, just thoughts, nothing more, nothing less.

How can I tell if someone has OCD?

Mental counting can be hard to detect, but other clues can help you spot the obsessive-compulsive disorder.For example, people may be very particular about how things must be done and may seem unable to relax if not done correctly. 

People with OCD might also mention feeling like they have to do certain things over and over again.Most people with OCD realize that these behaviors don’t make sense but can’t stop them anyway.

If someone you know seems to fit this description, it’s important not to judge them. OCD is a real and serious disorder that can be very debilitating. 

The best thing you can do is offer your support.If you’re not sure whether someone has OCD, it’s best to consult a mental health professional. They will be able to diagnose and recommend the best course of treatment.

The importance of seeking treatment for OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be a debilitating illness that may significantly decrease an individual’s quality of life if left untreated. Unfortunately, many people go undiagnosed and untreated for years. It is due mainly to the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

The National Institutes of Health reports that only 35-40% of those with OCD seek treatment and less than 10% receive evidence-based care.

It’s essential to seek treatment if you suffer from OCD; treatment can be very effective and help you get your life back on track. 

There are many different types of therapy available, so don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about what may work best for you.

Tips to cope with OCD symptoms.

If you suspect that you or a loved one have obsessive-compulsive disorder, please seek professional help. A mental health specialist can provide you with the tools and resources you need to manage your symptoms. In addition to seeking professional help, there are a few things you can do on your own to cope:

-Recognize that OCD is not you. It’s a disorder that makes it difficult to control your thoughts and actions, but it doesn’t define who you are as a person.

-Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment.

-Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep and exercise, and make time for leisure activities that you enjoy.

-Be open about it with loved ones, especially therapists. It can be challenging to talk about obsessive thoughts, but sharing these fears with others about what you’re going through may bring relief or at least lessen feelings of isolation caused by secrecy or shame.

When you experience symptoms of OCD, it can be easy to want to handle the problem by yourself, but this isn’t always helpful. With support from therapists and loved ones, coping, and adjusting your lifestyle, you can manage the symptoms of OCD.

There is Hope for OCD sufferers.

You can overcome this disorder and live a healthy, happy life with the proper treatment and support. If you or someone you know is living with obsessive-compulsive disorder, please seek professional help. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. 

Your therapist will work with you to find the best treatment plan for you. Don’t hesitate to ask for help – it can make all the difference.

I wish you the best of luck on your road to recovery, and I hope you find the treatment and support that works for you.

My name is Jonas Eriksson, and I have suffered from OCD for 35 years. 

My goal is to educate sufferers about the condition and how to overcome it, so you don’t have to suffer as long as I have done.There are many new and very effective treatments for OCD on the market today.

Treatment can help you get your life back.

– – –

Please share and comment on the article if you want to say or ask anything. I will be answering as soon as possible. Thank you for reading!

Resources – find help.

-International OCD Foundation: iocdf.org

The IOCDF provides resources and programs throughout the year for those affected by obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as family members or professionals in mental health services.

-National Institute of Mental Health: nimh.nih.gov

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) mission is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.

-OCD Action: ocdaction.org.uk

This UK-based charity supports people with obsessive-compulsive disorder and their families and raises awareness of the condition among the general public.

-OCD UK: ocduk.org

This charity supports people with obsessive-compulsive disorder and their families, and carers raise awareness of OCD within society and offer advice to sufferers on managing symptoms through self-help techniques. They also work closely with professionals who treat mental health conditions affecting children and young people.

-Anxiety and Depression Association of America: adaa.org

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is a national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting mental health and preventing suicide. ADAA provides information on anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and more disorders than any other association in America.

Scroll to Top