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Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is an anxiety disorder that centers around recurrent obsessions or compulsions. Often one has both obsessions and compulsions, and often obsessions are the basis for the compulsions. 

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Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder - or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) - is described in the ICD-10 diagnostic manual as follows:

The main feature is recurring obsessions or compulsions. Obsessive thoughts are ideas, perceptions or impulses that repeatedly appear in the patient's consciousness in a stereotypical form. They are almost invariably disturbing, and the patient often tries, without success, to resist them. However, the patient acknowledges them as their own thoughts, even if they are involuntary and often repulsive.

Coercive acts or coercive rituals are stereotyped behaviors that are repeated over and over again. They are not in themselves pleasant or useful. The purpose is to prevent some objectively improbable event which causes harm to, or which is caused by, the patient, and which he or she otherwise fears will occur. Usually, this behavior is recognized by the patient as meaningless or useless, and he or she therefore makes repeated attempts to resist it. Anxiety is almost always present. If the coercive actions [compulsive rituals] are resisted, the anxiety gets worse.


Obsessive thoughts

The most common obsessions are about fear...


  1. become infected or infect others with a dangerous disease
  2. ...that one has forgotten something important and that this can cause, for example, fire or burglary
  3. ...that other accidents may occur


Others may be bothered by thoughts of sexual content that are perceived as blasphemous, and thoughts of performing actions that may harm someone they love.

The thoughts are not pleasurable, and it is not something you want to do. When thoughts appear, this causes intense discomfort and fear that there may be a real risk associated with having such thoughts.


Compulsive actions

In order to alleviate the discomfort caused by the obsessive thoughts and to ensure that the negative events do not occur, compulsive actions are performed. The most common coercive actions are:


  1. Excessive washing or checking of doors, windows or electrical appliances
  2. Excessive order, symmetry or repetition
  3. Mental rituals such as counting to specific numbers
  4. Think of positive words to neutralize negative thoughts
  5. Ask repeatedly about insurance from other people


Treatment for OCD

To ensure that those affected have access to effective treatment, specialized treatment teams ("OCD teams") have been established in all health trusts in Norway. If you think you have an obsessive-compulsive disorder and want treatment, contact your GP.

Other countries may have other treatment options. Importantly, research indicates that cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) are efficient, particularly those that employ exposure with response prevention as a main ingredient in the therapy.

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