What It’s Like To Have OCD

Published on December 27th, 2018

Updated on January 6th, 2024

What It's Like To Have OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder in which a person suffers from obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are persistent thoughts and impulses. They are difficult to manage and cause anxiety or distress. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors. They are performed to reduce anxiety or neutralize feared things from happening. Compulsions may also be referred to as rituals. They temporarily reduce the discomfort for a person with OCD.

Obsessions trigger stress for a person with OCD. They come in the forms of intrusive and recurring thoughts, impulses, or disturbing mental images. Obsessions are difficult to manage. They are often eased by performing compulsive rituals, but the relief does not last long. People with OCD repeat rituals in an effort to ease the discomfort that is caused by anxiety and obsessive thoughts.

Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The key symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder are obsessions and compulsions. A person with OCD performs compulsive rituals to ease obsessive thoughts. They do not enjoy or want to engage in compulsive behaviors, but they are the only way the affected person knows how to ease the distressing obsessive thoughts.

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Obsessions may come in the form of mental images, intrusive thoughts, or unwanted impulses. They are oppressive and unwanted, but very difficult to control. Obsessions are distressing and do not reflect the real desires of the affected person. 

Examples of obsessions include:

A person with OCD may try to ignore or refuse to acknowledge obsessions. Ignoring does not resolve the issue or make obsessions go away. Compulsions are used in an attempt to get rid of or ease obsessions.


Compulsions are used to neutralize obsessions. They may be repetitive outward behaviors or repetitive thought patterns. Compulsions provide a temporary feeling of relief from obsessions. Some people with OCD may also believe that compulsions prevent obsessive thoughts and fears from happening.

The following are examples of compulsive behaviors:

Compulsions are acts that are done in excess or do not actually prevent fears from happening. They may provide relief for the affected person, but are not pleasant to go through. 

Compulsions are time-consuming. They affect a person’s quality of life. They do so by impairing functioning for the following: 

Causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

There are different factors that may contribute to the onset of OCD. A person’s risk of OCD depends on their circumstances. The way that they grew up, their life experiences, and their genes all contribute to the onset of OCD. Common risk factors of OCD include:

Family History

People who have an immediate family member who suffers from OCD are at increased risk of suffering from OCD. This is partially due to genetics. It can also be due to the modeling of behaviors from family members.

History Of Trauma

Children and adolescents who have experienced the following events are at increased risk of developing OCD:

Poor Stress Management Skills

Failure to develop healthy stress management skills increases the risk of suffering from OCD. This is especially prevalent for children who struggled with:

History of Mental Illness

OCD can be co-morbid with other conditions. Suffering from one of the following mental disorders may place a person at increased risk of OCD:

Treatment Options for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Treatment for OCD typically uses Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). ERP derives from cognitive-behavioral therapy and can be used with children, adolescents, and adults.

The goal of Exposure and Response Prevention is to reduce the compulsive reaction to triggers. ERP also uses CBT techniques to reduce obsessive thoughts and ritualistic behaviors.

OCD may also be treated with medication. This depends on the affected person’s unique case. A mental health professional may recommend psychiatric care along with counseling. In such circumstances, a person may be prescribed antidepressants or antipsychotic medication along with ERP.

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