Frequently Asked Questions

It is estimated there are three quarters of a million people living with OCD in the UK. The condition affects as many as 12 in every 1,000 people from young children to adults, regardless of gender. *

It is common for people to sometimes experience obsessive thoughts and compulsive thoughts or behaviours, such as worrying about leaving the oven on or wanting things to be organised in a certain way. These are normal thoughts and concerns. However, if these thoughts or behaviours are repetitive and have a negative impact on your life, it could be a sign of OCD, and you can contact your GP to explore possible treatment.

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You might have heard people say they’re “a little bit OCD” about something. This common phrase creates a misconception about what it’s like to live with OCD, undermining how complex and debilitating it is. While we all may experience obsessive and compulsive thoughts or behaviours at times, if you live with this condition these thoughts and behaviours are so extreme that they can impact your daily functioning and quality of life.

Everyone can experience both obsessions and compulsions, which can have both positive and negative effects. However, if any obsessions and compulsions are repetitive and cause a person to feel discomfort, anxiety or unease then they can consult with their GP to understand and assess whether they possibly have OCD and which treatments might suit them best.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental illness in which someone will experience obsessive thoughts and compulsive thoughts or behaviours. These can be distressing and make it difficult to go about daily life, relationships and work. For some people, the condition impacts their life to such an extent that it could be considered a disability too.

For further information about when a mental illness is considered a disability visit the government website


Although hearing voices and having intrusive thoughts can be linked, they are different things. But both can be distressing and difficult to ignore.

If you’re ‘hearing voices’,  you will hear a voice when no-one is present with you, or which other people with you cannot hear. With intrusive thoughts, it won’t sound as if other people can hear the thought. An intrusive thought is a distressing thought that can come into your head at any time without warning.

An intrusive thought might be an obsessive one if you keep getting it.  If you feel as though you must think or do a certain thing after you’ve had an obsessive thought, you might be experiencing OCD.

You can hear voices and get intrusive thoughts at the same time.

In order to assess whether the treatment is working you might be encouraged by your GP or therapist to give the treatment adequate time for the benefits to be seen. There are various treatment options for OCD, so it is best to go back to your GP or therapist to discuss other options. Following assessment and review of treatments, you may be referred to a specialist or a different medication could be considered.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) produces guidance on recommended treatments for OCD.

There are various networks where you can access peer support with others who are living with the condition. You could sign up and join Clic – Mental Health UK’s online community, supporting everyone with their mental health and wellbeing. You can connect with others, share your experiences and thoughts and find useful information on the platform.

Alternatively, OCD UK have support groups and discussion forums where you can speak to people with similar experiences to yours and get help.

Pure O stands for ‘purely obsessional’. It is sometimes used to refer to a form of OCD which is believed to be where people experience intrusive thoughts but have little to no external signs of compulsions. The term is not a medically listed type of OCD.

The term is controversial. This is because some people and organisations, like OCD UK, think a person with ‘Pure O’ has compulsions and therefore will have OCD. More information exploring this term can be found here: OCD UK’s website

The first diagnosis of OCD was recorded as far back as the 14th century. During that era it was described as a condition called “scrupulosity”, and obsessions and compulsions were only described in relation to religious rituals.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, it was still unclear what caused OCD, and there were many theories. During the late 19th century, the Freudian school of thought was influential, which supported the belief that OCD is derived from feelings of love and hate towards yourself. However, in the late 20th century, behavioural and cognitive psychology overtook and they became the founding theoretical principles by which OCD is treated today.

It’s unlikely that OCD can be cured completely, but with a good treatment plan, the symptoms can become much more manageable so that they don’t control your life.

During particularly stressful times or changes in your life, OCD symptoms can worsen. Stress, anxiety or major life changes can all play a significant role in how OCD manifests itself.

With treatment, including therapy to help with coping techniques, you’ll likely be more able to manage stressful situations without your OCD taking a turn for the worse.

It’s unclear why someone might develop OCD. It’s thought to be a combination of personal experiences, genetics, and personality. Although it’s not fully understood why some people develop OCD, it can be treated and managed.

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