What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a serious anxiety-related condition where a person experiences frequent intrusive and unwelcome obsessional thoughts, often followed by repetitive compulsions, impulses or urges.

OCD presents itself in many guises, and extends beyond the common perception that OCD is merely hand washing or checking light switches.

In general, OCD sufferers experience obsessions, which take the form of persistent and uncontrollable thoughts, images, impulses, worries, fears or doubts.

These obsessions are often intrusive, unwanted and disturbing, significantly interfering with the ability to function on a daily basis, as they are incredibly difficult to ignore.

People with OCD usually understand their obsessional thoughts are irrational, but believe the only way to relieve the anxiety caused by them is to perform compulsive behaviours, often to prevent perceived harm happening to themselves or, more often than not, to a loved one.

Compulsions are repetitive physical behaviours and actions or mental thought rituals that are performed over and over again in an attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessional thoughts.  

Avoidance of places or situations to prevent triggering these obsessive thoughts is also considered to be a compulsion.

Typically OCD falls into one of four main categories:


   Contamination/Mental Contamination


   Ruminations/Intrusive Thoughts

To some degree OCD-type symptoms are probably experienced, at one time or another, by most people.  However, OCD itself can have a totally devastating impact on a person’s entire life, from education, work and career to social life and personal relationships.

The key difference distinguishing little quirks from a clinical diagnosis of OCD is when the distressing and unwanted experience of obsessions and compulsions impacts significantly on a person’s daily life.

OCD is diagnosed when the obsessions and compulsions:

  •      Consume excessive amounts of time (approx. 1hour +)
  •      Cause significant distress and anguish
  •      Interfere with daily functioning at home, school or work, including social activities and family life and relationships.

OCD is indeed a chronic, but also a very treatable medical condition. Most people can learn to stop performing their compulsive rituals and to decrease the intensity of their obsessional thoughts through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).  

The illness affects up to 1.2% of the population from young children to adults, and does not discriminate between gender or social or cultural background.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has ranked OCD as one of the top 10 most disabling illnesses, in terms of diminished quality of life and lost earnings.


PANDAS is an acronym for a condition called Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus (PANDAS).  Current research suggests that symptoms of Tourette’s and OCD have been associated with PANDAS at least in some cases.  PANDAS results from the effect of the body's own immune system's antibodies attacking parts of the brain.  The onset usually occurs following an ear, nose or throat (ENT) infection from Group A Beta Haemolytic Streptococcus (GABHS).  GABHS antibodies in some cases can damage parts of the brain resulting in a range of behavioural disorders.  OCD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Tourette’s, ADHD and even psychosis.

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