What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
Obsessions are intrusive, irrational thoughts -- unwanted ideas or impulses that repeatedly well up in a person's mind. Again and again, the person experiences disturbing thoughts, such as "My hands must be contaminated; I must wash them." Or "I may have left the gas stove on" or "I am going to injure my child."
On one level, the sufferer knows these obsessive thoughts are irrational. But on another level, he or she fears these thoughts might be true. Trying to avoid such thoughts creates great anxiety.
Compulsions are repetitive rituals such as handwashing, counting, checking, hoarding or arranging. An individual repeats these actions, perhaps feeling momentary relief, but without feeling satisfaction or a sense of completion. People with OCD feel they must perform these compulsive rituals or something bad will happen.
Most people at one time or another experience obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors. OCD occurs when an individual experiences obsessions and compulsions for more than an hour each day, in a way that interferes with his or her life.
OCD is often described as "a disease of doubt." Sufferers experience "pathological doubt" because they are unable to distinguish between what is possible, what is probable and what is unlikely to happen.