Symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

OCD is a very common condition that a lot of people will experience at some point in their lives. In some cases OCD can be used as a way of coping during a stressful situation, however it is also a condition that can be passed down through the family.

If you think a friend or relative has OCD and is struggling with the symptoms, look out for consistent behaviours – particularly obsessions and compulsions such as washing their hands over and over again or turning a switch off and on. 

Consider your friend or relative’s current circumstances, for example do they have a new job? Are they studying for an exam? Have they experienced bereavement? All of these factors would play a part if the OCD is a new behaviour that they are showing. Speak with the friend or relative and gently offer your support. It may be that they are experiencing a tough time and could do with somebody to talk their problems through with as they are dealing with their troubles in a different way.

Some obsessions experienced in OCD can be disturbing, for example constantly thinking of unpleasant images and phrases. If the sufferer seems particularly anxious or upset, these thoughts may well have something to do with their behaviour.

Signs of OCD

You may experience one of the following common obsessions:

  • Hygiene - for example having to wash over and over again until you feel clean. This can become ritual and embed itself in your daily routine.
  • Sex - constantly questioning your sexuality or having intrusive sexual thoughts
  • Religion i.e. thinking that you have sinned or overanalysing religion for example considering that any bad thoughts that occur during prayer will contaminate and ruin or cancel out the value of these activities
  • Fear of harm - this obsession runs throughout all thoughts and actions, for example having to keep all items on your desk symmetrical for fear of them causing harm to yourself and/or others.

Common responses to OCD involve constant checking, cleaning and avoiding certain things. Examples can include:

  • Checking if a household appliance is turned off
  • Washing yourself or objects more than usual
  • Only touching things with a tissue or avoiding items which may be contaminated
  • Repeating actions a set number of times or for a specific period of time
  • Feeling isolated and ashamed
  • Intrusive sexual thoughts
  • Unwanted thoughts of aggression and physical violence
  • Concern with symmetry and or alignment of objects

What are the emotional symptoms of OCD?

Other symptoms of OCD can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of sleep

OCD can be a very challenging condition, however some of those who have the condition accept it as part of everyday life as they manage their obsessions and/or compulsions.

Top 7 tips for dealing with OCD:

  1. Accept that you have a problem and speak with a friend or relative who may be able to support you.
  2. Understand that you are not defined by your obsessions or compulsions – you are your own person.
  3. Reward yourself every time you hold off a compulsion, for example if you wash your hands just once when needed and walk away, treat yourself with a new book or new gadget.
  4. Take steps to overcome compulsions – in the first instance it could be a good idea to alter the way you act out these compulsions, so cleaning your office desk a different way or lining up your stationery at a different angle.
  5. Don’t be too hard on yourself – if you are experiencing unpleasant obsessions, be aware that these thoughts will lessen over time.
  6. Eat healthy food, make sure you are getting plenty of rest and surround yourself with positive influences.
  7. Have patience with your condition, and don’t be afraid to seek professional help.

For further information on the treatments for OCD, then please call: 0845 277 4679.