We all have unwanted thoughts from time to time, but mostly we can push them aside and move on. However, for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) unwanted negative thoughts can be constant and can start to take control of their lives.
OCD is a treatable anxiety disorder that affects more than 500,000 people in Australia. It usually develops in late childhood or early teenage years and without proper treatment can become a chronic condition. As the name suggests, there are 2 kinds of symptoms:
- obsessions - an unwanted thought, image or urge that repeatedly comes into the mind
- compulsions - repetitive behaviours or rituals, that are difficult or impossible to resist doing, which are carried out to reduce anxiety
The compulsions can take considerable time, impacting on normal day-to-day activities. For example, a person with OCD may need to check the iron is turned off 20 times. People suffering from OCD are usually aware of their behaviours and know they are excessive. This can cause shame, forcing people to keep their condition secret. The sooner people with OCD seek effective treatment, the closer they are to regaining control of their lives.
If you're finding it difficult to manage your anxiety, try healthdirect's Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek professional help.
Where to get help
- Kids Helpline (telephone and online counselling for ages 5-25) — call 1800 55 1800.
- Mensline Australia (online counselling and forum for men) — call 1300 78 99 78.
- Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) — call 13 11 14.
- OCD? Not Me! (online OCD treatment program).
- Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) — call 1300 659 467.
You can also visit Head to Health, an online gateway funded by the Australian Government that can help you find free and low-cost, trusted phone and online mental health resources, including information about obsessive-compulsive and related disorders.
Last reviewed: December 2018