Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) affects around 3% of the Australia population. This fearful form of anxiety can generate unwanted, involuntary thoughts and specific, repetitive behaviours that interfere with daily life. You may sense that your thought patterns and ritualised urges are unusual, even irrational. Yet once the habits have been formed, the compulsion to repeat the behaviour can be extremely difficult to resist.


Common obsessions (involuntary thoughts, mental images) include:

  • Germaphobia (fear of contamination, preoccupied with hygiene and sanitation)

  • Perfectionism (intense preoccupation with symmetry and exactness)

  • Fear of losing control (harming yourself or others)

  • Fear of losing things (includes indecision about discarding items)

  • Fear of being responsible for a terrible event occurring

  •  Intense preoccupation with becoming sick (e.g. cancer, HIV)

  • Excessive attention to superstitious beliefs


Common compulsions (repetitive, ritualised behaviours) include:

  • Cleaning: excessive hand-washing, showering and household/environmental ‘decontamination’

  • Repetition: double-checking appliances and locks; tapping, blinking, and touching things in preset ‘safe’ multiples; ordering and arranging items

  • Checking: that you didn’t cause harm; loved ones are safe; you didn’t make a mistake; monitoring your physical body

  • Excessive praying and performing religious rituals to ward off harm

  • Hoarding: collecting items to the point of significant household clutter, accruing an excessive number of domestic animals


Compulsive, ritualised behaviour may temporarily alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, but OCD is cyclical. Often the intrusive, obsessive thoughts intensify over time, triggering the OCD cycle with distressing frequency. The repetitive behaviours associated with OCD are often time-consuming, eventually becoming a source of anxiety in and of themselves. Fortunately, effective counselling helps treat OCD; the latest research suggests that therapeutic support is essential to recovery.