Home‎ > ‎Understanding Anxiety‎ > ‎

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is one of the most common mental disorders people face these days. It affects millions of people of all ages every year. As the name suggest, OCD consists of two main symptoms: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are simply unwanted, intrusive thoughts that cause distress. Compulsions are repetitive actions taken to reduce the distress associated with obsessive thoughts.


Everyone experiences unwanted or distressing thoughts at times and we all do compulsive things on occasion. However, to be diagnosed with OCD, these thoughts and behaviors must take up more than an hour a day and cause significant interference with your life.


There are several different types of OCD. The most common types include:

  • Contamination: Sufferers of contamination OCD fear coming in contact with germs, cleaners, garbage or other items that they believe will cause illness. Fears of contamination can lead to excessive hand or body washing, cleaning, and avoidance of places that feel contaminated, such as public restrooms.
  • Checking: "Checkers" are plagued by intrusive thoughts that they forgot to do something such as lock the front door or turn off the stove. The intrusive thoughts consist of doubts that you completed the activity--which in turn leads to checking and reassurance-seeking. These doubts can persist despite checking.
  • Obsessional Thoughts: The symptoms of this form of OCD typically include intrusive thoughts about harming yourself or others, unwanted sexual thoughts or blasphemous thoughts. Compulsions can include mental rituals, avoidance, reassurance-seeking, and praying.
  • "Just Right": Those with this form of OCD often feel that certain things--such as the way you walk through a doorway or brush your teeth--have to be "just right". People with "just right" OCD might also fear that something bad will happen to them or someone they love if things aren't done in just the right way.
  • Symmetry: If you experience symmetry OCD, you'll feel intense distress if you notice that something is not symmetrical. For example, you might feel that pictures hung on your wall or the fringe on the carpet in your living room must be perfectly straight. Those with symmetry OCD spend a significant amount of time straightening and arranging things.

The good news about OCD is it's a highly treatable disorder. Both medication and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy are effective forms of treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy--also know as CBT--typically involves gradually confronting situations and thoughts that cause distress while preventing yourself from engaging in rituals. Research has proven that this method of treatment-know as Exposure and Response Prevention--is highly effective in reducing the symptoms of OCD.