Having the same distressing thoughts and urges again and again, can be symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder. Find out more about OCD and what to do if you're affected by it.

What is OCD?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It can be serious, but it's very treatable.

People with OCD have repeating thoughts, images or feelings that are distressing (obsessions). They carry out rituals or habits (compulsions) to feel better temporarily.

OCD rituals can be obvious to other people (like checking door locks) or they can happen inside your head (like counting or trying to counteract negative thoughts with positive ones).

OCD thoughts come in all shapes and sizes, but they often revolve around things like danger, dirt and contamination, or worries around sexuality or religion.  

You have reserves of strength you don’t even know about – you just have to get through the bad days, and the good days will follow.

The symptoms of OCD

You might feel:

  • your mind being 'invaded' by horrible thoughts repeatedly
  • scared, disgusted,  guilty, tearful, doubtful or depressed
  • a powerful urge to do something to stop the feelings
  • temporary relief after rituals
  • a need to ask for reassurance or get people to check things for you

Just because you experience one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’re definitely affected by OCD. It’s important to talk to your GP to get a full diagnosis.

Recovery is all about getting to a point where these thoughts just pass over you and you don’t feel the need to seek reassurance or react as you know they are junk thoughts.

What to do

Take the first step - if you think you are affected by OCD, talk to someone you like and trust, like a teacher, relative, counsellor or friend.

It's important not to try and manage alone, as OCD normally needs treatment to get better.

You should also see your GP. They may offer to refer you to the child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS), an expert or a psychiatrist who can help you.

Treating OCD

You might be offered cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) using a technique called exposure response prevention (ERP), which helps you feel less upset by your thoughts.

There are medications that can help too, e.g. anti-depressants.

With the correct combination of professional treatment and support, people with OCD can improve their condition and recover.

Where to get help

YoungMinds Crisis Messenger

  • provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis - just text YM to 85258
  • all texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors
  • texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus

OCD Action

  • a place for support and information to anybody affected by OCD
  • helpline: 0845 390 6232 (Mon-Fri, 9:30am - 5pm)
  • office: 020 7253 5272 (Mon-Fri, 9:30am - 5pm)
  • email: [email protected]

No Panic

  • No Panic are the people to call if you are suffering from panic attacks, OCD, phobias, and other related anxiety disorders. 
  • helpline: 0844 967 4848 (Daily 10am – 10pm; charges apply)
  • youth helpline for 13 - 20 yr olds: 0330 606 1174 (Mon - Fri 3pm – 6pm; charges apply)
  • having a panic attack? Crisis number with recording of a breathing technique: 01952  680835 (24 hr)
  • email: [email protected] 


The Mix

  • if you're under 25 you can talk to The Mix for free on the phone, by email or on their webchat. You can also use their phone counselling service, or get more information on support services you might need. 
  • freephone: 0808 808 4994 (1pm - 11pm daily)
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