Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common mental health condition in whichÂ a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.
It affects men, women and children, and can develop at any age. Some people develop the condition early, often around puberty, but it typically develops during early adulthood.
OCD can be distressing and significantly interfere with your life, but treatment canÂ help you keep it under control.
If you have OCD, you'll usually experience frequent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.
- an obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters your mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease
- a compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act thatÂ you feel you need to carry out to try to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought
For example, someone with an obsessiveÂ fear of their house being burgled may feel they need to check all the windows and doors are locked several times before they can leave the house.
GettingÂ help for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
People with OCD are often reluctant to seek help because they feel ashamedÂ or embarrassed.
ButÂ there's nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. It's a health condition likeÂ any other. It does not mean you're "mad" andÂ it's not your fault you have it.
There are 2 main ways to get help:
- refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies serviceÂ â find a psychological therapies service in your area
- visit your GPÂ â your GP will ask about your symptoms and can refer you to a local psychological therapies service if necessary
You can also find mental health apps and tools in the NHS apps library.
If you think a friend or family member may have OCD, try talking to them about your concerns and suggest they seek help.
OCD is unlikely to get better without properÂ treatment and support.
There are some effective treatments for OCD that can help reduce the impact the condition has on your life.
The main treatments are:
- psychological therapyÂ â usually a type ofÂ cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)Â thatÂ helps you face your fears and obsessive thoughts without "putting them right" with compulsions
- medicineÂ â usually a type of antidepressantÂ medicine called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)Â that can help byÂ altering the balance of chemicals in your brain
CBT will usually have an effect quite quickly. It can take several months before you notice the effects of treatment with SSRIs, but most people will eventually benefit.
If these treatments do not help, you may be offered an alternative SSRI or be given a combination of an SSRI and CBT.
Some people may be referred to a specialist mental health service for further treatment.
CausesÂ of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
It's not clear exactly what causes OCD. A number of different factors may play a role in the condition.
- family historyÂ âÂ you're more likely to develop OCD if a family member has it, possibly because ofÂ your genes
- differencesÂ in the brainÂ âÂ some people with OCD have areas of unusually high activity in their brain or low levels of a chemical called serotonin
- life eventsÂ â OCD may be more common in people who have experienced bullying, abuse or neglect,Â and it sometimesÂ starts after an important life event, such as childbirth or a bereavement
- personalityÂ âÂ neat, meticulous, methodical people with high personal standards may be more likely to develop OCD, as may those who are generally quite anxious or have a very strong sense of responsibility for themselves and others
Living with OCD can be difficult. In addition to getting medical help, you might find itÂ helps to contact a support group or other peopleÂ with OCD for information and advice.
The following sites may beÂ useful sources of support:
OCD Action, OCD-UK and TOP UK can also let you know about any local support groups in your area.