People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may have obsessions, compulsions or both. Most people with OCD have both obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions are recurrent, intrusive thoughts, images or impulses that are unwanted, and cause significant distress. Even though a person tries hard to suppress the obsession, it continues to reoccur in an uncontrollable fashion. Obsessions usually involve upsetting themes that are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems. Some of the most common obsessive content includes contamination by dirt or germs, losing control and harming oneself or other people, doubts about one’s verbal or behavioural responses, repugnant thoughts of sex, deviations from orderliness or symmetry, or fear of sudden sickness (i.e, vomiting). People are often upset by these thoughts/obsessions as they go against their beliefs and values.
Compulsions (also known as rituals) are repetitive behaviours or mental acts that a person performs to prevent or reduce distress or prevent something bad from happening. Individuals may feel driven to perform the ritual even though they try to resist it. Common compulsions include repetitive and prolonged washing in response to fears of contamination, counting to a particular number or repeating a phrase. OCD can have a significant negative impact on functioning and put strain on family and close friends.