Infoline: 08444 775 774*

Mon-Fri 9:30am - 5.30pm

Text Service: 07537 416 905

Infoline: 08444 775 774*

Mon-Fri 9:30am - 5.30pm

Text Service: 07537 416 905


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

hand washing

What is it?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be looked at in two parts: obsessions – these are repetitive, obtrusive, unwanted thoughts that are experienced and result in unreasonable fears, and compulsions – acts or rituals carried out in response to fears generated by obsessions. The classic OCD condition is that of compulsive hand washing in response to an irrational fear of germs/contamination.

Sufferers of this disorder feel less anxious once they have carried out a compulsion. It is possible to experience obsessive thoughts only and not have the desire to carry out a compulsion. Examples of compulsions are excessive cleaning, counting, checking, measuring, and repeating tasks or actions. Trichotillomania (compulsive hair-pulling) may also be classified under the general umbrella of OCD. Examples of obsessions are worrying excessively about death, germs, illness (usually AIDS, cancer, etc. – this can also be classified as an ‘Illness phobia’), having undesirable sexual thoughts, fearing causing harm to others.

Types of OCD

Anxiety UK recognises that OCD presents itself in many forms. Along with the more classic forms described on this page, there are also some more specific variations. You can click on the links below to find out more about these particular conditions.

OCD fact sheet

DIY self diagnosis

If you can answer YES to most of the questions it is likely that you are affected by OCD.

During the past 2 weeks:

  • Did you worry obsessively about contamination by germs/chemicals/dirt and/or that something bad might happen to you/other people, and/or that you might say something you didn”t want to that might upset others?
  • Did you feel compelled to carry out certain behaviours?
  • Did you check, count or repeat things over and over again?

Anxiety UK strongly advises that people seek further information and guidance from their GP who will be able to make a formal diagnosis.

How we can help

Anxiety UK is a user-led charity with more than forty years experience in supporting those living with anxiety. By becoming a member of Anxiety UK, you will have access to a range of benefits, including:

  • Access to reduced cost therapy within two weeks of submitting your therapy request
  • One year’s free subscription to Headspace (worth approx. £60), more details
  • Access to our infoline, email, text and live chat services (available Monday-Friday, 9:30 am – 5:30 pm) staffed by volunteers with personal experience of anxiety
  • Receipt of four issues of Anxious Times, our quarterly members” magazine
  • Access to the members only section of our website, featuring regular support surgeries facilitated by anxiety experts
  • Access to specialist helplines, including the psychiatric pharmacy helpline and the psychology information helpline

And many, many other benefits that will help you manage your anxiety long term. To become a member of Anxiety UK click here or ring 08444 775 774 today.

Want to know more?

Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a self help book based on cognitive behavioural therapy. It includes information on how to beat your rituals and deal with obsessional thinking. It has been highly rated by a number of individuals with OCD who have used it to overcome their symptoms. You can purchase a copy in the Anxiety UK online shop by clicking here.

Anxiety UK Publications

There are several resources available for those dealing with OCD in out shop, click here to see.

Other Publications

Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust has produced two useful booklets for young people with OCD and their parents/carers. To download a free copy, click on the relevant link below:

Helpling your child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (A young person’s self help guide)

The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry has published a useful paper about the relationship between movement disorders and OCD that can be viewed here.

Recommended web sites

Anxiety UK relies on donations to keep its services running. If you found this information useful please make a donation – no amount is too small.


Personal experience

Do you suffer from OCD and want to share your experience with other people? Post your personal experience in the comments box below where it will be sent to our moderator for approval. Many people find this part of the site very useful when trying to understand their disorder so your comments really do make a difference. Please note, all comments submitted to the Anxiety UK website may be used by Anxiety UK for (but not limited to) publicity and promotional material.

If you would like to make contact with others who are living with similar experiences, you can do so via the Anxiety UK Pen-Pals scheme which is a service available to all Anxiety UK members (in both electronic and hard copy format).

I have OCD, but gladly I don’t feel that it controls me anymore – rather I control it.

I still feel uncomfortable when things are not how I want them. For example, I like my margarine to stay flat in the tub and I can’t stand people gauging out great lumps. I also hate crumbs or anything non-margarine in the tub. Also, I dislike things being off centre; shoes have to be side by side, and completely level at the front; books have to be in order from the largest to the smallest, and I like things being at right angles to other things. A few days ago, I spent half an hour completely unaware that I was adjusting a newspaper so that it was in line with the floorboards (I was watching TV at the time). These however are all little things, and they don’t control me like they used to do. For example, I don’t scrape the margarine flat anymore, I just get on with life. My hands are not as badly split because of washing them, although probably I still wash them a little too much. In short, I’m getting there, and without medication. I guess I am just looking at life with a little more common sense.