Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). It's also possible to have only obsessions or only compulsions and still have OCD.
With OCD, you may or may not realize that your obsessions aren't reasonable, and you may try to ignore them or stop them. But that only increases your distress and anxiety. Ultimately, you feel driven to perform compulsive acts in an effort to ease your stressful feelings.
OCD often centers around themes, such as a fear of getting contaminated by germs. To ease your contamination fears, you may compulsively wash your hands until they're sore and chapped.
Despite efforts to ignore or get rid of bothersome thoughts, the thoughts or urges keep coming back. This leads to more ritualistic behavior - and a vicious cycle that's characteristic of OCD.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms usually include both obsessions and compulsions. But it's also possible to have only obsession symptoms or only compulsion symptoms. About one-third of people with OCD also have a disorder that includes sudden, brief, intermittent movements or sounds (tics).
OCD obsessions are repeated, persistent and unwanted urges or images that cause distress or anxiety. You might try to get rid of them by performing a compulsion or ritual. These obsessions typically intrude when you're trying to think of or do other things.
Obsessions often have themes to them, such as:
Examples of obsession signs and symptoms include:
OCD compulsions are repetitive behaviors that you feel driven to perform. These repetitive behaviors are meant to prevent or reduce anxiety related to your obsessions or prevent something bad from happening. However, engaging in the compulsions brings no pleasure and may offer only a temporary relief from anxiety.
You may also make up rules or rituals to follow that help control your anxiety when you're having obsessive thoughts. These compulsions are often not rationally connected to preventing the feared event.
As with obsessions, compulsions typically have themes, such as:
Examples of compulsion signs and symptoms include:
Symptoms usually begin gradually and tend to vary in severity throughout your life. Symptoms generally worsen when you're experiencing more stress. OCD, considered a lifelong disorder, can be so severe and time-consuming that it becomes disabling.
Most adults recognize that their obsessions and compulsions don't make sense, but that's not always the case. Children may not understand what's wrong.