Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

What does OCD look like?

Young people with OCD obsess about bad things happening, often to themselves or family and friends. They know they don’t like or want these thoughts, but feel the only way of dealing and coping with them is by repeating the compulsive behaviour.

OCD has three parts:

  • obsessions – the thoughts that make you feel anxious or upset
  • the anxiety itself
  • compulsions – the things you do to help with the anxiety; rituals and repetitive behaviour

You may feel the need to:

  • arrange things in a certain way
  • wash your hands over and over again
  • keep touching the same things
  • repeatedly checking you have turned off all electrical appliances in the house
  • say special things to cancel/balance out bad things

Sometimes these obsessional thoughts and rituals can cause such great distress they can stop you carrying on with your day to day activities e.g, Not going out due to the amount of times they have to check every electric item is switched off.

When does OCD happen?

No one really knows what causes OCD to happen, although there is lots of research and ideas, including how the brain works, stress being a trigger, and that there is often more than one person in a family with OCD or anxiety problems. We all have lots of different thoughts that pop into their heads and most of which we are able to ignore them and move on, but for some people it is not that easy.

How is it treated?

One of the main ways of treating OCD is through Cognitive Behaviour therapy (CBT) which is a talking therapy that can help you manage your OCD by changing the way you think about how you manage your obsessions, compulsions and behaviour.

What can I do?

  • Speak to a trusted person such as your GP or school nurse. You could also speak to family, friend, teacher or counsellor who can help you with speaking to a specialist about your worries.
  • If you find you have to do a ritual to reduce your anxiety try and delay it a little each time – waiting 1 minute, then 2 minutes etc before you do it.
  • If you find you have to do a ritual a number of times to reduce your anxiety. Try and reduce it each time, if you do it 10 times, try 9 times, then 8 times etc. until you feel more comfortable not doing it.
  • Try practising relaxation exercises daily, they can help you learn how to calm yourself. Try laying or sitting in a quiet room, closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing, try taking slow breaths, breathing in for a count of four and breathing out to the count of four.
  • Visit www.ocdkids.org for information leaflets.
  • Visit www.getselfhelp.co.uk

For more information on OCD visit Young Minds or find out how to access our services so that we can support you.


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Page last reviewed: 20 December, 2023