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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

2-minute read

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

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of OCD, it's important to talk to a doctor. Or you can contact one of the services below to speak with someone urgently or to chat online:

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.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2018

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