Obsessions and compulsions are often a sign of underlying stress and anxiety. Many people will develop some obsessive or compulsive symptoms when life isn't going so well (tidying, ordering, checking, cleaning, worrying, etc.). These symptoms are the body's way of relieving tension and the mind's way of gaining a sense of control.
Such symptoms can be a useful warning signal that life is out of balance and needs a bit of attention. These will normally respond well to general counselling or psychotherapy that address the underlying stress and anxiety. Often what is most useful is some help to reflect on where you have come from and where you are heading as well as how best to balance the many demands that life makes on us with our needs, hopes and fears.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder which is thought to occur in approximately 1-2% of the general population. If you are suffering from OCD, you will be experiencing the following:
Many people can experience obsessions and compulsions without meeting the criteria for OCD. To qualify for the diagnosis of OCD the obsessions will be causing intense distress and may be taking up significant time or causing you to avoid important activities.
There are many themes that OCD can take such as:
Harm/Responsibility: Fears of being responsible for harming others (can include driving fears, poisoning others, transmitting HIV, causing accidents etc).
Contamination: Fear of dirt, germs, chemicals, lead, asbestos or items that may feel 'emotionally contaminated'.
Violent/Suicidal: Fears of acting on an impulse to violently harm others or fears of wanting to commit suicide (this is different from suicidal ideation caused by depression).
Sexual: Unwanted sexual thoughts, sensations or urges about sexual orientation or forbidden acts including pedophilia, incest, beastiality etc.
Relationship: Fears of not loving or trusting your partner, friends, relatives, being attracted to others etc.
Moral/Religious (Scrupulosity): excessive concerns with behaving in a right/wrong, immoral or blasphemous way.
Perfectionism: excessive concern about evenness, exactness, symmetry, performing tasks perfectly, making mistakes or forgetting something important.
Existential: excessive preoccupation with death/existence or one's role in the universe or 'grand scheme'.
Hyperawareness: excessive preoccupation with bodily or mental functions (such as swallowing, breathing, blinking, body positioning, thinking, health concerns, hearing noises etc)
Superstitious: excessive fears of certain numbers, colours, black cats, walking under ladders etc.
The causes of OCD are not yet known but genetics are very likely to play a role.