Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder where a person experiences frequent intrusive and unwelcome obsessional thoughts, commonly referred to as obsessions (OCD UK, 2021).

These obsessions are distressing for the individual, and they feel a need to act out compulsions to reduce the distress. These compulsions can bring short-term relief from the anxiety. However, this is temporary, and the compulsions become repetitive every time the fear is triggered.

There are a lot of unhelpful misconceptions about OCD. OCD is debilitating for many people and significantly impacts a sufferer’s quality of life. These misconceptions are damaging and can prevent people from seeking support.


Examples of common obsessions include:

  • Worries about contamination
  • Worrying about harm coming to yourself or other people
  • Relationships – constantly thinking about your relationship or your sexuality
  • Worries that imagining bad events will increase the possibility they will happen
  • Violent thoughts – thoughts of being violent to a loved one or other people
  • Sexually disturbing images or thoughts
  • Thoughts that go against religious beliefs 

Compulsions: can take many forms and can include constant reassurance-seeking, checking things repeatedly, avoiding people or places, skin picking, or mental compulsions including counting.

Support available

OCDUK has a wide range of information about the disorder and the treatment options available, as well as advice for those struggling with the condition and their family members.

ReThink has a downloadable factsheet about obsessive compulsive disorder.

Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust have produced a range of self-help guides, available to download here.

OCD can be treated via psychological therapies. Visit our service lookup here to see if we deliver a talking therapy service in your local area. Alternatively, you can visit the NHS website here and enter your postcode to find your local service.