Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviors an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.

Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5):

The characteristic symptoms of OCD are the presence of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are repetitive and persistent thoughts, images, or urges. Importantly, obsessions are not pleasurable or experienced as voluntary: they are intrusive and unwanted and cause marked distress or anxiety in most individuals. The individual attempts to ignore or suppress these obsessions, or to neu­tralize them with another thought or action (e.g., performing a compulsion). Compulsions (or rituals) are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession... The aim is to reduce the distress triggered by obsessions or to prevent a feared event … obsessions and compulsions must be time-consuming (e.g., > 1 hour per day) or cause clinically significant distress or impairment to warrant a diagnosis of OCD. 


Obsessions are thoughts, images or impulses that occur over and over again and feel outside of the person’s control. Individuals with OCD do not want to have these thoughts and find them disturbing. In most cases, people with OCD realize that these thoughts don’t make any sense.  Obsessions are typically accompanied by intense and uncomfortable feelings such as fear, disgust, doubt, or a feeling that things have to be done in a way that is “just right.”


Compulsions are the second part of obsessive compulsive disorder. These are repetitive behaviors or thoughts that a person uses with the intention of neutralizing, counteracting, or making their obsessions go away. People with OCD realize this is only a temporary solution but without a better way to cope they rely on the compulsion as a temporary escape. Compulsions can also include avoiding situations that trigger obsessions. Compulsions are time consuming and get in the way of important activities the person values.

Common Symptom presentations / Dimensions

Perfectionism & Not-Just-Right Feelings


Physical & emotional


Religious & moral obsessions

Harm Obsessions:

by intent or neglect

Sexual Obsessions

Sexual Obsessions

Health Anxiety

Magical Thinking

Social Anxiety

Relationship OCD

Existential/ Philosophical OCD

Related Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders

Body-focused Repetitive Behaviors

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Hoarding Disorder