Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Everyone has occasional unwanted thoughts and it's not uncommon to be obsessed with things from time to time. When these thoughts won’t go away and are accompanied by compulsive actions, it's known as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Check out the causes and the tools available to help you manage OCD, which are best used with the help of a doctor, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.

This will be useful if you:

  • Frequently have unwanted, intrusive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviours
  • Think you might have OCD
  • Want to manage and control OCD
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What's obsessive compulsive disorder?

Everyone has occasional unwanted thoughts. But obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder where you have repeated unwanted thoughts, or feel like you absolutely have to do certain things. There are two parts to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – obsessions, and compulsions. 

What's an obsession?

An obsession is any intrusive, unwanted or inappropriate thought that comes back repeatedly and is hard to stop thinking about. Common obsessions are cleanliness, symmetry or religion.

What's a compulsion?

A compulsion is an activity that you have to complete to feel like things are going to be alright. You might feel like you have to do things in a certain order, clean things repeatedly, count things, or hoard a certain type of object (meaning you collect and keep specific objects with little or no value or purpose).

What causes OCD?

Similar to a lot of other anxiety disorders, the exact causes of OCD aren't clear, but it's likely that thinking styles, brain chemistry, brain structures, stressful events and hormones all play a part.

What can you do about OCD?

There are a few different ways to manage OCD, and the best and easiest way to do it is to work together with a psychiatrist or psychologist. By working with a professional, you’re most likely to find the approach, or combination of treatments and self-help strategies, that's going to work for you. 

The most common treatment for OCD is cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). This involves working with a clinical psychologist to change how you respond to thoughts that trigger OCD behaviours. 

Some other tools to help manage OCD include:

You can't expect too much straight away. It's something that might take a bit of time and effort before you see results but they will happen over time. It can be hard to know where to find the right support you need. ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. Try ReachOut NextStep to learn about the support options available for you.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 04 March, 2016
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