Overview - Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common mental health condition where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

OCD can affect men, women and children. Some people start having symptoms early, often around puberty, but it usually starts during early adulthood.

OCD can be distressing and significantly interfere with your life, but treatment can help you keep it under control.

Symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

If you have OCD, you'll usually experience frequent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

For example, someone with an obsessive fear of being burgled may feel they need to check all the windows and doors are locked several times before they can leave their house.

Women can sometimes have OCD during pregnancy or after their baby is born. Obsessions may include worrying about harming the baby or not sterilising feeding bottles properly. Compulsions could be things such as repeatedly checking the baby is breathing.

Getting help for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

People with OCD are often reluctant to seek help because they feel ashamed or embarrassed.

OCD is a health condition like any other, so there's nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. Having OCD does not mean you're "mad" and it's not your fault you have it.

There are 2 main ways to get help:

If you think a friend or family member may have OCD, try talking to them about your concerns and suggest they get help.

It's unlikely OCD will get better without proper treatment and support.

Treatments for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

There are some effective treatments for OCD that can help reduce the impact it has on your life.

The main treatments are:

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.

Causes of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

It's not clear what causes OCD. A number of different factors may play a part, including:

Support groups

Living with OCD can be difficult. In addition to getting medical help, you might find it helps to contact a support group or other people with OCD for information and advice.

The following websites may be useful sources of support:

OCD Action, OCD-UK and TOP UK can also let you know about any local support groups in your area.

Social care and support guide

The social care and support guide has advice about where you can get support if you: