Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) (not be confused with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)), is a mental health condition characterized by recurring thoughts called obsessions and repetitive behaviors called compulsions that help to stop the obsessions temporarily.  The thoughts are called obsessions because they feel almost impossible to control. The behaviors are called compulsions because one feels compelled to perform the actions in order to relieve an overwhelming amount of anxiety. These obsessions and compulsions significantly impact a person’s ability to function optimally in life.


  • Obsessive, intrusive and distressing thoughts, doubts, or fears (thoughts of perfection, symmetry, safety/danger, contamination/cleanliness, etc.)
  • Compulsive, repetitive behaviors or mental acts to reduce anxiety caused by obsessions (cleaning, checking, counting, seeking reassurance, arranging, avoiding or fixing perceived imperfection).


  • Childhood trauma and highly stressful life events (e.g. abuse, loss, heartbreak, disaster)
  • Family history/Genetics/Neurobiology (runs in the family / genetic factors / brain abnormalities)


  •  Checking OCD: Frequent checking of locks, appliances, or personal belongings.
  • Contamination OCD: Intense fear of germs or contamination, leading to excessive cleaning or avoidance.
  • Symmetry and Ordering OCD: Obsession with arranging and aligning objects to achieve a sense of balance.
  • Hoarding OCD: Excessive accumulation of items and difficulty discarding possessions, resulting in cluttered living spaces.
  • Intrusive Thoughts OCD: Distressing and unwanted thoughts or images that are difficult to control, often of a violent, sexual, or religious nature.


African Context

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a complex mental health condition that significantly impacts daily life. These days we often hear people say things like “I’m so OCD” or refer to someone as being “OCD”. This is almost always used when a person is particular about neatness and organizing. This is more likely to be Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), or not even a disorder at all. OCD causes significant distress and dysfunction in a person life. Because of this as well, it should not be written off as a choice. So, if you or anyone you know is/may be struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder or any other mental health challenge, you can reach out to a professional here.

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