Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that can affect people of all ages. Those with OCD get caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.

What is OCD?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that can affect people of all ages. Those with OCD get caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images or urges that trigger distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviours an individual engages in to get rid of the obsessions.

We all have obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours at some point in our lives, but this doesn’t mean we all have OCD. To be diagnosed with OCD, the obsessive and compulsive cycle has to be at an extreme level. It takes a large amount of time away from the person. It impacts daily activities, causing major distress, and impairs work, social and important personal functions.

What causes OCD?

It’s not clear what causes OCD and several different factors can lead to an individual developing the disorder. This combination of environmental and biological factors includes:

  • Family history - you may develop OCD if a member of your family has it
  • Brain biology - people with OCD may have high brain activity or low levels of serotonin
  • Life events - OCD may be triggered by personal experiences such as bullying, abuse, childbirth and more
  • Personality - if you’re a neat, methodical or anxious person with high standards, you may develop OCD at some point

What are the signs of OCD?

People experience OCD differently, but it’ll usually cause a pattern of thoughts and behaviours. The three main elements include:

  • Obsessions - unwanted and intrusive thoughts repeatedly enter your mind
  • Emotions - obsessive thoughts lead to anxiety and distress
  • Compulsions - the individual may carry out repetitive behaviours or thoughts to ease the anxiety and distress

The cycle of obsessions and emotions can lead to compulsive behaviours including the following:

  • Cleaning
  • Washing hands multiple times
  • Checking locks frequently
  • Counting
  • Ordering and rearranging
  • Hoarding items
  • Repeating words in their head
Compulsive behaviours aren’t always obvious to others, meaning it can take time for individuals with OCD to recognise the signs.

Common OCD strengths

Good organisational skills

People with OCD are great at foreseeing, planning events, projects and an office efficiently. They are highly productive individuals.

Imaginative / creative

The OCD brain is super active and tends to think of all the “bad” things in a given situation. However, this can be redirected as an asset during a brainstorming session or when coming up with new ideas.

Attention to detail

People with OCD have an eye for detail. They do this effortlessly. They strive for perfection, which is a great asset in the workplace.

Determined and resilient

Several world-class athletes have a trace of OCD. Having OCD means that they’re determined to perfect their game and have no issues with repetitively practising to improve.


People with OCD face struggles daily and therefore are naturally very empathetic and understanding of others.

Examples of good jobs for people with OCD

  • Event planner / manager
  • Athlete
  • Musician
  • Administration roles
  • Project management
  • Copywriting / editing
  • Auditing

How is OCD treated?

The type of OCD treatment an individual receives depends on the impact it has on their life. The two main treatments include:

  • Psychological therapy - individuals will face their obsessions without carrying out the subsequent compulsion, breaking the cycle
  • Medicine - a form of antidepressant will be prescribed to help alter the brain’s chemical imbalance
Those with milder OCD symptoms might be offered a short course of therapy. Those with more severe OCD might undertake a longer course of therapy, potentially coupled with medicine.