Obsessive compulsive disorder, also known as OCD, is a major anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive, ritualistic behaviors (compulsions). You experience these unwanted, intrusive thoughts that you can’t get out of your mind, and they keep haunting you and cause your extreme anxiety. The anxiety becomes so unbearable that you try to cancel out the anxiety caused by the obsessions via compulsive behaviors. OCD has significant impact on your life, as you spend so much time on the obsessions and compulsions, that you can’t focus on other things in your life. OCD basically takes all of your time and energy, to the detriment of your relationships, your job or schooling, and your ability to take care of yourself.
For example, you may have a germ contamination fear, so you think that you are not clean and you come in contact with unclean objects frequently. Having such obsessive thoughts makes you highly anxious. To counteract this obsessional anxiety, you wash your hands multiple times per day, and spend hours washing your hands daily. Although the compulsions reduce the anxiety associated with the obsessions, it is only temporary. In the end, the compulsions just maintain and even worsen your overall anxiety levels. Click here for a detailed explanation of the negative cycle of OCD.
There are many forms of obsessions. Some obsessions include germ contamination fears, fear that locks are unlocked, and fear of asymmetry, just to name a few. There are also many forms of compulsions to counteract the obsessional anxiety. Compulsions include washing rituals, counting rituals, ordering rituals, and checking rituals, just to name a few. With some compulsions, like hoarding rituals, there is no discernable obsession…you may hoard as you don’t like to throw things away, but you may also have other thoughts, but the compulsion is not necessarily linked to an intrusive thought.
With OCD, you can observe the compulsions as these are observable. Sometimes, it is difficult to determine what the person is thinking about or has obsessions about.