Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common anxiety-related mental health condition where an individual has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour.

OCD presents itself in many different ways and goes beyond the common perception that OCD is having a spotless home, being neat and tidy, keeping everything in a straight line or merely hand washing.

If you have OCD, you usually have:

  • frequent, intrusive and unwelcome thoughts, images or urges that repeatedly enter your mind - obsessions.
  • repetitive behaviours, rituals or mental acts that you do to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings, anxiety or perceived harm brought about by the obsessive thought – compulsions.

Some of these obsessions may include:

  • fear of being harmed
  • fear of causing harm to others
  • fear of contamination by disease, infections or other unpleasant substance
  • a need for symmetry, or orderliness e.g. feeling the need to ensure that all the labels on the tins in their cupboard face the same way
  • obsessive sexual thoughts
  • fear that they will make a mistake that has serious consequences.

Some of these compulsions may include:

  • frequent and intrusive thoughts about the need to check things e.g. doors locked, electric off, hands washed
  • rituals e.g. getting dressed in a particular order, having to touch every second lamp post when walking down the street
  • counting or repeating words or phrases
  • hoarding or collecting objects
  • daily activities take a long time e.g. washing or cleaning

Trying to resist these urges can be very distressing and interfere with your life.

You can find a longer list of symptoms on the NHS website and NAViGO’S Choice and Medication portal.

It’s unlikely that OCD will get better without proper treatment and support.

Talking therapies, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), might help you deal with the symptoms of OCD. CBT tries to change the way you react to situations by adjusting the way you think and behave with ‘coping skills’.

Sometimes it may be necessary to use medication. You can see a list of medicines we might offer you on our Choice and Medication portal.

If you’re in a mental health crisis and need urgent help, call the Single Point of Access on (01472) 256256 and select option 3. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Alternatively, you can call NHS 111 free from a landline or mobile phone.

Open Minds offers a range of therapies aimed at helping you to deal with OCD and should be your first port of call if you’re looking for support. You can self-refer to Open Minds online.

Discuss your symptoms with your GP.

Orcha Apps Library: This library lists thousands of NHS-approved health apps by condition, making it quick and easy for you to find support.

Every Mind Matters: This Public Health England campaign shares hints and tips developed with experts and approved by the NHS. 

OCD Action: OCD Action is a national charity providing support and information to anybody affected by OCD. 

OCD UK: A national recovery focused charity run by and for people with lived experience of OCD. They also run the HealthUnlocked OCD Forum.