Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

OCD is characterized by obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are intrusive thoughts, images, or impulses that are unwanted or inappropriate and appear to be outside of a person’s control. Obsessions tend to cause significant stress and anxiety because the content of the thoughts are often in direct opposition to how the person typically thinks or feels. Often the person recognizes that the thoughts are irrational or bizarre, but is unable to be fully reassured by this knowledge. Obsessions that people commonly have include:

  • Fears of contamination or getting dirty
  • Fears that they will intentionally or unintentionally harm themselves or others
  • Fears of discarding useless or unwanted objects
  • Thoughts of blasphemy or being punished for their sins
  • Fears of committing unwanted sexual acts
  • A need for symmetry or exactness

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts performed in an attempt to neutralize the distress or anxiety caused by the obsession  Compulsions may or may not be logically related to the obsession. For example, a person with contamination fears may wash repetitively or with a complex routine in order to avoid getting sick or dirty. The same person may also open and close the refrigerator a certain number of times before taking food out to avoid contaminating it. Much like obsessions, the person often knows that the compulsions are excessive or unreasonable, however still feels the need to perform them.


Exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP) is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that has been shown to be highly effective in treating OCD. Want to learn more about OCD and how ERP is used in therapy? Listen the CBTWNC Podcast with Dr. Jonathan Abramowitz, a leading expert in the treatment of OCD.

For more information about our Monthly Support Group for OCD, download and read our flyer (PDF).