Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety-related condition

People with OCD experience frequent unwanted and sometimes disturbing thoughts or images (‘obsessions’). They then attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by these thoughts by performing repetitive behaviours or mental rituals (‘compulsions’). Common compulsions might be the need to wash hands, the need to check that the door is locked, or the need to perform an action a certain number of times but there are many different ways in which OCD can affect people.

It’s quite common for people with severe anxiety to also experience recurrent worrying thoughts and feel the need to repeat a behaviour (e.g. two blinks), which they think will stop a bad thing from happening. This does not necessarily mean they have OCD although there is an overlap of symptoms. Children or young people with autism also sometimes use repetitive behaviours to help themselves feel calmer. Have a look at our pages on anxiety for some general resources.

Often, the relief brought by carrying out these compulsive actions is short-lived, and in the longer term reinforces the obsession, which worsens the condition. OCD can take up a lot of time and make it difficult to get on with normal life. (e.g. school, social activities, family life). However, there is lots of help and advice available which can help young people learn to cope and there is good advice for parents below. Medication for anxiety is sometimes used to help adults with OCD.

Typically, OCD falls into one of the following categories: Checking, Contamination, Hoarding, Ruminations or Intrusive Thoughts



Websites and helplines


What is OCD? Dr Isobel Heyman from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust describes what OCD is, and talks about how common it is and the theories about what causes it