Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involves obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviours or a combination of both.
‘Obsessions’ are defined as recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are unwanted and intrusive (‘intrusive’ implies that these thoughts, urges or images pop to mind unintentionally or spontaneously). Obsessions are also defined as unwanted and intrusive thoughts that the individual attempts to ignore or suppress, or to ‘neutralize’ them by replacing the thought with another thought or action (i.e., by performing a compulsion).
‘Compulsions’ are defined as repetitive behaviours (e.g., hand washing, ordering or checking) or mental acts (e.g., praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.
These compulsive behaviours or thoughts are implemented to prevent or reduce anxiety or distress by preventing some dreaded event or situation. However, these behaviours or mental acts are excessive and not connected in a realistic way to what they are designed to prevent.
The obsessive thoughts and compulsions tend to be very time-consuming (e.g., recurrent checking behaviour of locks on doors may take an hour or more per day) or cause significant emotional distress (typically anxiety and stress) or difficulties maintaining social and/or occupational responsibilities.
OCD is diagnosed only if it’s clear that legal or illegal drug use is not causing the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.
Disclaimer: The information covered on this website is for educational purposes only. Other disorders including Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Hoarding Disorder and Trichotillomania among several others can share symptoms in common with OCD, so it’s important to speak with your GP or a psychologist about your concerns to clarify what you’re experiencing and to receive appropriate treatment. A diagnosis of any psychiatric or medical condition must only be made by a medical or mental health specialist. Diagnosing a psychiatric concern is a complex process that involves formal training, do not ‘diagnose’ yourself.
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