There are two main types of symptoms: obsessions and compulsions.
- Obsessions are persistent and uncontrollable thoughts, images, urges, worries, fears or doubts that repeatedly appear in your mind. They can make you feel very anxious
- Compulsions are repetitive physical behaviours or mental thought rituals that are performed over and over again in an attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by obsessional thoughts
OCD is typically characterised by unwanted, intrusive and often distressing thoughts or images entering your mind and triggering anxiety.
It is not the occurrence of these thoughts that causes OCD – everyone experiences unwanted, intrusive and distressing thoughts. It is the anxiety such thoughts cause and one's response to them that is the source of the OCD. A sufferer's response to these thoughts will have one of two themes:
- Because I have thought it, it means I have done it / it has happened
- Because I have thought it, it means I want to do it / want it to happen
This way of interpreting thoughts produces the anxiety that sufferers of OCD feel, and this anxiety generate behaviours that are an attempt to cope. These behaviours may be repetitive or compulsive acts that you feel driven to perform to control your anxiety.