What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Understanding OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) affects 1.5 to 2.5 % of Australians. 

So what is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

It is an anxiety disorder and causes people to experience both obsessions and compulsions.


Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive and disturbing impulses, urges, images and thoughts that arise and cause uneasiness ranging from apprehension to intense fear and worry.

Scientist continue to study environment, biology and genetics for their possible contributions to this disorder.

The high risk group for developing OCD are young adults in the 18-24 yrs age group. 

I’ve read conflicting reports concerning the relative gender prevalence of OCD. Some reports say there is an equal occurrence among both men and women, while others suggest slightly more women than men experience OCD.

However, it is generally agreed that men who suffer OCD are likely to get the disorder at a younger age than women – men in their mid to late teens and women in their early twenties.

Obsessions are not about real problems and people suffering Obsessive Compulsive Disorder usually realise that. However, this generally makes them feel even worse because they find it difficult to understand how they can be so obsessed by an irrational fear or concern.

You can learn in more detail about obsessions, or by downloading the free explanation paper/e-book about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.


Compulsions are precise, generally deliberate and usually repeated behaviours, either physical or mental, that a person with OCD carries out in an attempt to relieve themselves of the anxiety caused by their obsession/s.

The person suffering Obsessive Compulsive Disorder performs the compulsion either because they feel this is something they must do (i.e. are compelled to do) or they believe their compulsive behaviour will prevent the occurrence they fear from happening.

Alternatively they think the compulsion will reduce their thinking, worry and anxious feelings about the event and/or will therefore eventually erase all thinking and concern about this worrisome event from their minds.

More detail on the symptoms of OCD..

How Does OCD Work?

An overview is best given by example:
    You have a thought. For example you read the paper about a robbery and think, ‘that could happen to me.’

    You attribute extreme meaning to that thought – ‘if it did happen to me, I would be unable to live with myself because I failed to protect my family.’ You feel anxious because of that thinking.

    You develop a means of dealing with that anxiety – a compulsion to check doors and windows several times before retiring of an evening.

    The more you apply the compulsion the more you think the obsessive thought, and so the more you need the anxiety-alleviating compulsion.

    Awareness of this cycle proves your strategy is not working. However, this awareness usually dawns too late – and after you are trapped in the vicious OCD cycle.

You can learn in more detail about compulsions and the symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, by downloading the free explanation paper about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

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