What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characteriSed by persistent, intrusive, and unwanted thoughts, images, or urges (known as obsessions) that lead to intense anxiety or distress. To alleviate this anxiety, individuals with OCD engage in repetitive behaviours or mental acts (known as compulsions) that are often excessive and time-consuming.

What are Obsessions?

Common obsessions include:

  • Fears of contamination
  • Fears of harming oneself or others
  • A need for symmetry or exactness
  • Intrusive thoughts that go against one’s moral or religious beliefs


What are Compulsions?

Common compulsions include:

  • Repetitive handwashing
  • Checking and re-checking doors or locks
  • Counting excessively
  • Arranging things in a particular way
  • Mentally repeating phrases or prayers

OCD is generally considered a chronic condition, but it can be managed and treated with a combination of therapies, including cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and medication (typically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs).

In CBT, a type of therapy commonly used for OCD, individuals learn to confront and manage their obsessions without resorting to the compulsive behaviours that typically follow. If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, it’s important to seek help from mental health professionals who specialize in treating this condition.


What are the signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by a combination of obsessions and compulsions. Here are some common signs and symptoms associated with OCD:


  • Intrusive Thoughts: Persistent and unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that cause significant distress.
  • Fear of Contamination
  • Symmetry and Order
  • Forbidden Thoughts
  • Harming Concerns
  • Religious or Moral Obsessions
  • Perfectionism


  • Checking
  • Washing and Cleaning
  • Counting
  • Repeating
  • Ordering and Arranging
  • Mental Rituals
  • Avoidance
  • Hoarding

What are the statistics of obsessive-compulsive disorder UK?

Prevalence: OCD is relatively common, and its prevalence can vary across populations. In the UK, it was estimated that about 1.2% of the population experienced OCD at some point in their lives.

Age of Onset: OCD can develop at any age, but it often begins in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. The median age of onset for OCD is around 19 years.

Gender Differences: OCD affects both males and females, but there are some gender differences in presentation. Males often have an earlier age of onset, while females tend to experience a slightly higher prevalence.

Severity: OCD can vary in severity, with some individuals experiencing mild symptoms that don’t significantly impact their daily lives, while others have more severe symptoms that can greatly impair their functioning.

Treatment: Effective treatments for OCD include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), particularly exposure and response prevention (ERP), and medication, commonly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).


Who to contact about obsessive-compulsive disorder in the UK?

  • National Health Service (NHS): You can start by discussing your concerns with your GP (general practitioner).
  • OCD-UK: OCD-UK is a national charity dedicated to supporting people with OCD and related disorders. Website: ocduk.org Helpline: 03332 127 890 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
  • Mind: Website: Mind.org.uk Infoline: 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)
  • Anxiety UK: Website: anxietyuk.org.uk Infoline: 03444 775 774 (Mon-Fri, 9:30am-5:30pm)
  • Samaritans: If you’re in crisis or need someone to talk to about your feelings, the Samaritans offer confidential emotional support 24/7. Phone: 116 123 (Free to call)
  • Local Mental Health Services

It’s important to remember that seeking help is a positive step, and there are professionals and organizations ready to provide support and guidance for individuals dealing with OCD in the UK.