Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder. It causes unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions). We all have habits and routines in our daily lives, such as brushing our teeth before bed. However, for people with OCD, excessive repetitive behavior gets in the way of their daily lives.
Most people with OCD know that their obsessions and compulsions make no sense. Yet, they can’t ignore or stop them.
What are obsessions?
Obsessions are ideas, images, and impulses that run through the person’s mind over and over again. A person with OCD doesn’t want to have these thoughts and finds them bothersome. Despite this, he or she can’t control them. Sometimes these thoughts come just once in a while and are mildly annoying. Other times, a person who has OCD will have obsessive thoughts all the time.
What are compulsions?
Obsessive thoughts make people who have OCD feel nervous and afraid. They try to get rid of these feelings by performing certain behaviors that follow “rules” or “steps” that they make up for themselves. These behaviors are called compulsions. Compulsive behaviors are sometimes also called rituals. For example, a person who has OCD may have obsessive thoughts about germs. As such, the person may wash his or her hands repeatedly. Performing these behaviors usually makes the nervous feelings go away for a short time. When the fear and nervousness return, the person who has OCD repeats the routine all over again.