Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Mental Health   ›   Stress and anxiety  ›   Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

We all have little habits that we repeat instinctively every day and that’s totally normal. But, when these habits become obsessive and impossible to control then it’s obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). What is OCD anyway?

What is OCD?

Everyone has their little bad habits and actions they habitually repeat. For example, you might constantly check that the door 🚪 is really locked after you take the key out of the lock.


For people with OCD, these actions become an obsession that’s impossible to control. The person will check several times in a row to make sure the door’s really locked when they know perfectly well it is. They just can’t help it 🤷‍♀️!


Sometimes people develop serial compulsions. Then they need to repeat certain actions to get the obsession out of their mind. For example, people might repeatedly wash their hands, sometimes to the point of hurting themselves, to avoid catching diseases. Someone might also count objects compulsively every day in order to control (and limit) the ones they come in contact with.


So it’s not surprising that, in daily life, OCD means a huge waste of time for a person who has it, as well as causing serious psychological distress. The person knows his/her behaviour is bizarre and unreasonable but can’t do anything about it. A person with OCD can’t behave the way he/she wants to at school or at home. The reason is simple: the obsessions and compulsions prevent him/her from functioning normally.



In most cases, the symptoms appear gradually, and become more and more intense over time. There are all kinds of obsessions and compulsions. Here are some common obsessions:


  • intense fear of being contaminated by contacting an object or substance
  • fear of losing self-control or getting angry 🤬
  • fear of forgetting something important (for example, to lock the front door)
  • fear of forgetting or losing an object (for example, keys)


The most common compulsions involve:


  • washing one’s hands repeatedly, to the point of injury
  • taking several showers a day 🚿
  • cleaning the house non-stop
  • checking that the doors are locked before going out or going to bed
  • spending a huge amount of time organizing and putting away household items 🗄
  • forcing oneself to take exactly the same route to get to school and always crossing the street in the same place 🛣


Source: Gouvernement du Québec