By Vrunda Patel (Intern, Department of Mental Health Education, NIMHANS)

Obsessions which lead to compulsions. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a kind of disorder in which the person has uncontrolling, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations that makes them to do a particular thing repetitively in a particular way. Some of the activities related to OCD are hand washing, checking on things, cleaning, ordering and arranging etc. These can interfere person’s daily activities and consume excessive amount of time causing great distress. It is difficult to supress the obsessive thoughts although some people hide the symptoms of OCD in fear of stigma and embarrassment.

Signs and Symptoms:

People with OCD has both compulsions and obsessions. Obsessions are an idea or thoughts that continually occupies a person’s mind while compulsions are an urge to do something in a certain way.

Some of the examples of compulsions are:

  • Cleaning

  • Ordering and Arranging

  • Repeating

  • Checking

  • Metal compulsion

  • Checking if the door is locked

  • Constantly wash hands

Obsessive thoughts include:

  • Need to keep the thing in an exact particular order

  • Fear of dirt and germs

  • Belief that certain colours or certain numbers are good and bad

  • Constant awareness of sensations


  • Genes

  • Traumatic event

  • Physical or sexual abuse as a child

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

Who is at risk?
OCD is a common disorder that affects adults, adolescents, and children. Most people are diagnosed by about age 19, typically with an earlier age of onset in boys than in girls.

Medication helps in reducing the symptoms of OCD. Talk therapy like psychotherapy is very useful in maintaining the urge of compulsions and obsessions. Keeping the lifestyle and being aware of the warning signs of OCD helps in self coping and managing the disorder.

How to help people with OCD:

  • Encourage them to participate in various therapy sessions.

  • Avoid using words like, “Don’t worry, I’m kind of OCD too” or “Want to come over and clean my home.”

  • Be open about OCD.

  • Be patient, calm and non-judgmental.

  • Offer emotional support and often hug.

  • Accept that sometimes it will be impossible to deal with them, find your way out to deal with it.

  • Work out together to deal with the compulsions associated with that person.

[1] National Institute of Mental Health(2016).” Obsessive-compulsive disorder: When unwanted thoughts or irresistible actions take over” and “Obsessive-compulsive disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-when-unwanted-thoughts-take-over/index.shtml
[2]Neha Patha (2018, December 2). ”Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.” WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/obsessive-compulsive-disorder#1