Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?Elderly man, looking into distance, concerned look

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterised by the presence of unwanted and intrusive obsessions and/or compulsions.

What are obsessions?

Obsessions can be thoughts, urges or mental images. They are experienced as:
  • Unwanted or unacceptable
  • Intrusive
  • Repetitive
  • Persistent
  • Difficult to control
Common obsessions include:
  • Fears about contamination or germs (e.g. fear of AIDS, asbestos, the flu)
  • Thoughts of death and physical violence (e.g. unwanted urge to hit a friend)
  • Thoughts about accidental harm (e.g. injuring one's child, hitting someone with your car)
  • Fear of engaging in socially unacceptable behaviour (e.g. singing at a friend's funeral)
  • A need for order and symmetry (e.g. need to exactly place cans in cupboard)
  • Unwanted sexual thoughts (e.g. thinking about a sexual act that you would find inappropriate or against your beliefs)
  • Unwanted blasphemous thoughts or religious doubts (e.g. thinking you've done something sinful that will anger God)
  • Nonsense phrases, images or sounds


Page last updated 22-Dec-2009
Last Updated : 04-Apr-2013