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“I found myself thinking thoughts that were really disturbing to me and I just couldn’t make them stop. The thoughts would make me feel really anxious that I might have touched something dirty that could infect my whole family and that made me feel really guilty.  The only thing that helped me was washing my hands. As time went on, it got to the point where the only thing that would calm me down was washing my hands constantly. I didn’t want to keep washing my hands but I just couldn’t stop myself.”

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a condition in which you experience thoughts, images or impulses that come into your mind that are very disturbing to you and may make you feel anxious (Obsessions). You may then need to perform certain acts or rituals in order to make yourself feel better or less anxious (Compulsions).  

There are a wide variety of obsessions and compulsions; for example you may have thoughts of hurting others, disturbing thoughts that go against your religious beliefs, or maybe thoughts about performing unwanted acts which may or may not be of a sexual nature, but which you feel are highly inappropriate to who you are. You might also be extremely troubled by dirt or germs and feel a need to stay clean at all times; or you may have concerns that you might have left the door open, or left the stove on, or the taps on and these could cause harm to yourself or others.  Obviously, when these thoughts repeatedly occur you start to feel very anxious.

In order to try and keep the thoughts at bay or make the anxious feelings go away you may find yourself being compelled to do something to make it all stop. These behaviours are called compulsions.  Compulsions can involve repeatedly checking things, praying, counting, washing, touching, organizing things over and over again until that they are symmetrical and/or ‘just right’, along with a number of other possible behaviors.

In order to receive a diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder you must experience obsessions and/or compulsions for at least an hour a day, find the thoughts and behaviors to be very distressing and they must severely interfere with your everyday life.

If you think you may have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, speak to your family physician, psychologist or psychiatrist.



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