It is estimated that 2-3 per cent of the UK population has OCD

What is OCD?

OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder in which people experience repetitive and upsetting thoughts and/or behaviours. It is characterised by two main features - obsessions (thoughts that make you anxious) and compulsions (behaviours you engage in to reduce the anxiety).

Obsessions are repetitive, intrusive, frequent, unwanted thoughts, images or impulses that cause you to feel anxious or experience emotional discomfort or distress. They can preoccupy the mind and will not disappear, despite your best efforts not to think of them.

Common obsessions can include (but are not limited to):

  • fears about dirt, germs and contamination

  • doubts about harm coming to yourself or others

  • excessive concert with exactness, order or symmetry

  • fears of acting out violent or aggressive thoughts or impulses

  • unreasonable fears of harming others, particularly loved ones

  • abhorrent, blasphemous or sexual thoughts

  • religious, sacrilegious, or blasphemous thoughts

  • sexual thoughts or images

  • urge to hoard useless or workout possessions


Compulsions or rituals are the mental or behavioural acts you do in an attempt to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsessional fears, to set things right, or to neutralise the obsession. 

There are also many types of compulsions which are common for people to carry out in order to reduce the anxiety they feel from the obsessive thoughts or images. 

Common compulsions can include (but are not limited to):

Observable actions such as;

  • excessive washing and cleaning

  • checking (e.g. gas taps)

  • repetitious acts such as repeated touching

  • counting

  • constantly asking for reassurance from others that everything is okay

  • ordering and arranging

  • collecting and hoarding

  • behaviours that are aimed at reducing the chances of provoking an obsession (e.g. putting all sharp objects out of sight) and acts which reduce obsessional fears (e.g. wearing only certain colours).

Non observable mental compulsions can include;

  • repeating words or phrases

  • counting

  • saying a special word or prayer.


Avoidance - is another big part of OCD. Often someone with OCD will avoid situations in order to prevent them feeling anxious and having to carry out a compulsion. 

OCD and depression - due to the impact OCD can have on a person’s life, how it can interfere with every day activities, work, social and relationships, it is common for OCD sufferers to experience depressive symptoms also. 


My Therapist Online can help you. If you suffer from any of the problems detailed above, you may benefit from making an appointment with one of our OCD specialists. Some of our therapists have worked at the national specialist services for the treatment of anxiety disorders including OCD. 

OCD can be effectively controlled and treated. The most evidence based treatment, proven to provide relief from OCD is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).  CBT treatment coupled with exposure and response prevention (ERP) is recommended in guidelines published by the The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).


Recommended Reading

Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by David Veale and Rob Wilson

Breaking Free from OCD. Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with CBT. By Dr Fiona Challacombe, Dr Victoria Bream Oldfield and Professor Paul Salkovskis.