Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). What is it?

Commonly misunderstood and often well hidden, OCD affects an astonishing 1 in 100 people in the UK. Sadly, half of these people will suffer with severe OCD symptoms – the onset of which is normally in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Though we might all have our ‘quirks’ and be particular about certain things, like the way the cupboards are ordered or things we check before leaving the house, those with OCD are often crippled by their fears and live an exhausting round of upsetting thoughts and behaviours they simply cannot control.


It affects men, women and children and can develop at any age. Some people develop the condition early, often around puberty, but it typically develops during early adulthood.

Cause and symptoms of it

If you have OCD, you’ll usually experience frequent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

  • An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters your mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease.
  • A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that you feel you need to carry out to try to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought.

For example, someone with an obsessive fear of their house being burgled may feel they need to check all the windows and doors are locked several times before they can leave the house.

OCD is a vicious circle for many. The more someone worries about something, the more they carry out their compulsions and the more prominent it is in their minds.

As their obsessional fears do not come about, this pattern is reinforced in their minds. It is important to note that people with OCD often know that their fears are irrational but are unable to control them.

It is not unusual for the obsessions and compulsions to change over time and to intensify during times of stress.


People with OCD are often reluctant to seek help because they feel ashamed or embarrassed. But there’s nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. It’s a health condition like any other – it doesn’t mean you are mad and it’s not your fault you have it.

The good news is OCD is a treatable condition. It does, however, require the correct medication and the right therapy including CBT with exposure and response prevention.