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Updated : August 1, 2022 3 mins read


Updated : August 1, 2022 3 mins read

It’s important to remember…

The information that we put together in these pages are for informational purposes and should never be used as medical advice or instead of advice given to you from a health professional.

If you have any concerns about your mental health then you should always speak to a mental health professional or your GP.

We do our very best to put together information that gives you a good understanding of mental health issues and what can help but it is not intended as medical advice and we do not take responsibility that it is accurate or up to date at the time of reading.

We all have habits or rituals we like to do. For some people these rituals are caused by upsetting thoughts and instead of wanting to do them you feel like you have to, this is called OCD and is a treatable but serious mental health condition.

What is OCD

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is a serious condition that is a type of anxiety. Having OCD can be upsetting and distressing, but with help it is a treatable and manageable condition.

If you have OCD you can get repeating images, thoughts or feelings that enter your head. You might feel like you have no control over these thoughts which can be distressing. These are called obsessive thoughts.

The types of thoughts you might have include:

  • Fear of contamination or germs
  • That you have done something really bad
  • Thoughts that go against your personal beliefs (for example religion)
  • Fear of hurting yourself or others
  • A need to have things in order or symmetry

These thoughts might enter your mind as thoughts, a feeling or urge or for some people they come into their minds as images.

To control or stop these obsessive thoughts you feel that you have to carry out certain actions or rituals. You might find some relief from the obsessive thoughts after you have carried out a ritual which can make you feel calmer.

The types of rituals you might carry out:

  • Checking and rechecking
  • Cleaning
  • Handwashing
  • Saying words or phrases over and over again
  • Counting
  • Seeking reassurance from people
  • Avoiding places or situation that you think might trigger obsessive thoughts

After some time of using certain actions or rituals to calm down the obsessive thoughts you might start to feel like you have no choice but to carry them out. These are called compulsions.

Some people find they are unable to control or stop themselves carrying out compulsions.

The symptoms of OCD can range from mild to severe and affects everyone with the condition differently. Some people may find that their OCD takes up an hour or so of their day whereas for people with more severe symptoms their OCD may take over their daily life.

Symptoms of OCD

A good way to understand OCD is to think of it as a cycle of thoughts and behaviours.

Image credit: Research Gate


Let’s break down each stage of the cycle.

What causes OCD

We don’t know exactly what causes OCD but we do know there are certain factors that make it more likely for OCD to start.

Treatment for OCD

There are two main treatments for OCD. You may be offered one or both treatments depending on how much it affects your life.

Some people feel that they need to hurt themselves to stop the thoughts or that if they don’t hurt themselves something bad will happen to someone they love.

If you are using self harm to control obsessive thoughts then it’s really important to speak to someone or seek professional help.

Get Help now

Call 116 123 – The Samaritans

Webchat: Childline Counsellor Chat

Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space (Scotland only service)

Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat

If you think you are in danger of hurting yourself or other people, you should call 999 or present to your local A&E department.