What is OCD?
OCD isn’t about keeping your house tidy or liking things to be neat and orderly. It’s a serious condition that can make it hard to get through everyday activities. It can lead to social disability, such as children unable to go to school or
adults becoming housebound.
Worrying about some things can be helpful. For example, thinking “Did I lock the door?” and checking once before you go to sleep can help keep you safe. However, having intrusive thoughts that you need to check the locks exactly six times
or something terrible will happen is unhelpful.
Remembering to wash your hands before you eat is helpful and keeps you safe. Feeling an overwhelming need to wash your hands every time you’ve touched anything at all is unhelpful.
If you have OCD, you’re not alone:
- around 3 per cent of Australians experience OCD in their lifetime
- around 3 per cent experience it in any 12 month period.
Signs and symptoms of OCD
OCD can occur at any time during your life. Children as young as 6 or 7 may have symptoms and it’s common for OCD to develop fully for the first time in adolescence.
Only a psychologist or psychiatrist can diagnose OCD. The list of common symptoms on this page can help you decide whether you need to take the next step and seek support.
If you have OCD you may:
- have repetitive thoughts or worries that aren’t rational
- constantly repeat the same activity exactly the same way.
You might feel relieved in the short term by doing these things, but soon feel the need to repeat them. You may also recognise that these feelings, thoughts and behaviours are unreasonable.
We recommend you get support if you:
- spend more than one hour a day thinking repetitive thoughts or constantly repeating actions
- find that these thoughts and actions make it hard to do everyday activities, like working, studying or seeing friends and family.
Common OCD thoughts and behaviours
Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours can be about a wide range of issues. We’ve listed some common ones here.
Cleanliness and order
- Obsessive hand-washing or cleaning because you’re afraid of germs.
- Obsession with order or symmetry – for example, an overwhelming need to do things in a particular pattern or put objects in particular places.
Counting and hoarding
- Repeatedly counting items or objects - such as your clothes or pavement blocks when you’re walking.
- Hoarding things - such as junk mail and old newspapers.
Safety and checking
Obsessive fears about harm occurring to yourself or someone else can lead to an overwhelming need to do things such as repeatedly check:
- whether the stove has been turned off
- that windows and doors are locked.
- An irrational sense of disgust about sexual activity.
Religious and moral issues
An overwhelming need to pray:
- a certain number of times a day
- so much that it interferes with your work or relationships.