Almost everyone is familiar with minor obsessions and compulsions. You may find yourself filled with thoughts about an upcoming performance or examination, or keep wondering whether you forgot to turn off the stove or lock the door. You may feel better when you avoid stepping on cracks, turn away from black cats or arrange your closet in a particular manner. Sometimes little rituals can also be comforting during times of stress, such as humming a tune or counting rosary beads may reduce mental tension.

But imagine that your mind gets stuck on a certain thought or image, and this thought or image keeps replaying over and over again, no matter what you do. You don’t want to think about it but its intrusion worries you. It makes you feel anxious, urging you to respond or react by doing something to protect yourself. And while you may recognise that the fear doesn’t make sense, yet it feels real and intense. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), characterised by the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions, is prevalent in more than one per cent of the population worldwide, and can have an onset at any time starting from preschool to adulthood.

Symptoms Obsessions

Thoughts, images or urges that occur again and again, and feel out of the person’s control. The person does not want to have these ideas and finds them disturbing, usually realizing that don’t make sense. They make the person feel uncomfortable, bringing a fear, disgust, doubt or a feeling that things have to be done in a way that is ‘just right’.


  • Repetitive behaviour or thoughts that a person engages in to neutralize, counteract or make their obsessions go away.
  • They rely on the compulsion as a temporary escape.
  • They try to avoid situations that trigger their obsessions.
  • These obsessions and/or compulsions take a lot of time (more than 1 hour per day) and get in the way of important activities the person values (socialising, working, going to school, etc).

 Common Obsessions

  • Contamination and dirtiness
  • Harm (to self or others)
  • Perfectionism
  • Losing control
  • Unwanted sexual thoughts
  • Religious obsessions
  • Concerns about physical health
  • Superstitious ideas

 Common Compulsions

  • Washing and cleaning
  • Checking
  • Repeating actions
  • Mental compulsions (counting, praying, etc)
  • Hoarding or collecting
  • Ordering, arranging or setting things
  • Telling or asking for reassurance

Symptoms of OCD

  • The individual begins to avoid activities or situations previously regular with.
  • The individual spends much more time than usual on his routine or daily activities.
  • The individual is excessively involved in his own activities or thoughts, to the exclusion of others.
  • The individual finds it difficult to concentrate on work or other activities.


There is no single factor that can solely be implicated in the causation of depression. Genetic, biological and psychosocial factors all have a strong role to play in the etiology of the illness, combining in various ways leading to its precipitation. While there is evidence of a strong genetic component associated with obsessive compulsive disorder, as it is often seen to run in families, biologically, serotonin is one of the main neurotransmitters that is implicated in its causationFurthermore, many psychological and social stressors could also serve as triggers.


With mounting evidence that OCD is largely determined by biological  factors, pharmacotherapy, behaviour therapy, or a combination of both has been found to be effective in significantly reducing the symptoms of patients with obsessive compulsive disorder.

Seeking help

OCD is a treatable illness, and professional help is irreplaceable. The person suffering is often ridiculed for a lack of selfcontrol, and may even be snubbed by others. Often people may choose to hide their symptoms, in fear of embarrassment or stigma. It is important to spread the awareness about the disorder, so that identification becomes easier, and these individuals can be helped out in relieving their distress. It is imperative to encourage a supportive environment for the earliest identification and adequate psychiatric and psychological intervention.

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