In contemporary culture, it is not uncommon to hear a person describing themselves as “OCD” when they have a minor compulsion—for instance, if they have to triple check if they’ve locked the door upon leaving the house, or whether the iron is turned off. But while some people may throw this term around casually, even jokingly, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a serious and oftentimes debilitating condition that is no laughing matter.
OCD is a condition in which people suffer from persistent unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or rituals (compulsions) which they find impossible to control. Many individuals have both obsessions and compulsions, but others have either one or the other. Symptoms of obsession include recurring intrusive thoughts that cause a high level of anxiety but seem impossible to ignore. These thoughts often have a theme running through them—for example, an individual may have a deep and persistent fear of dirt or germs, or an obsessive need for organization and symmetry.