Frequently Asked Questions

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Do you feel trapped in a pattern of unwanted and upsetting thoughts? Does anything in the following statements sound like situations you have experienced frequently?

  • I have upsetting thoughts or images enter my mind again and again.
  • I feel like I can’t stop these thoughts or images, even though I want to.
  • I have a hard time stopping myself from doing things again and again, like counting, checking on things, washing my hands, rearranging objects, doing things until it feels right, collecting useless objects.
  • I worry a lot about terrible things that could happen if I’m not careful.
  • I have unwanted urges to hurt someone but know I never would.

If you have experienced any of these problems, you may have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

If you have OCD, you have repeated, upsetting thoughts, and you do the same thing over and over again to make the thoughts go away. The upsetting thoughts and images are called obsessions. The actions you take over and over again to make the thoughts go away are called compulsions. Examples of these repeated actions include counting, cleaning and checking on things.

OCD usually involves having both obsessions and compulsions, though a person with OCD may sometimes have only one or the other.

Some common obsessions are:

  • Contamination fears of germs, dirt, etc.
  • Imagining having harmed self or others
  • Imagining losing control or aggressive urges
  • Intrusive sexual thoughts or urges
  • Excessive religious or moral doubt
  • Forbidden thoughts
  • A need to have things “just so”
  • A need to tell, ask, confess

Some common compulsions are:

  • Washing
  • Repeating
  • Checking
  • Touching
  • Counting
  • Ordering/arranging
  • Hoarding or saving
  • Praying

OCD symptoms cause distress, take up a lot of time (more than an hour a day), or significantly interfere with a person’s work, social life or relationships. Other mental disorders that may fall within the spectrum of obsessive-compulsive disorder include compulsive hair pulling, compulsive shoplifting, gambling and sexual behavior disorders.

Talk to your doctor about your unwanted thoughts, fears and repeated actions. Tell your doctor if these thoughts and repeated actions keep you from doing everyday things and living your life.

Talking to a specially trained doctor or counselor helps many people with OCD. Therapy helps you learn to stop doing the repeated actions and also teaches you ways to lower and cope with your anxiety. The doctor may give you medicine to help you get rid of your unwanted thoughts and repeated actions. Medicine can also help you feel less anxious and afraid. Support groups are a great way to get support and create friendships with other people with OCD.

Just talking about your problems sometimes leads to new solutions. If you or someone you know needs information, guidance or help, call our Respond program at 1-800-366-1132. Respond offers confidential, caring assessments and referrals for individuals dealing with problems related to mental health issues and substance abuse. If you or a loved one are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 immediately.