Obsessions are excessive, unwanted, persistent thoughts or feelings that cause the person distress or anxiety. The person with OCD finds it difficult or impossible to control these thoughts the person believes the only way to deal with them is to carry out an action to subdue these thoughts (compulsions). The obsessive thoughts are not everyday worries about life. The person can usually recognise that the thoughts are irrational but can not simply dismiss them.
Compulsions are the acts or rituals that people are driven to follow in order to try and relieve the obsessive thoughts. They are often repetitive acts and have to adhere to certain ‘rules’ in order for them to be effective. Compulsions in OCD do not bring pleasure to the person; the only purpose they serve is to bring relief. Some compulsions can lead to harm, for example people who hand wash excessively may wash their hands so much that they become inflamed and sore.
Some of the typical obsessions and related compulsions are:
|Fear of germs/contamination||Excessive hand washing/cleaning|
|Need for perfection||Repetitive actions until things are just so.|
|Thoughts of someone being harmed||Repetitive actions/words so as not to cause (imagined) harm to someone.|
Doubt about religious or moral beliefs
|Counting, either physical objects or in their head.|
|Sexual urges and thoughts||Touching|