This disorder can be looked at in two parts; obsessions – these are repetitive, obtrusive, unwanted thoughts that are experienced and result in unreasonable fears, and compulsions – acts or rituals carried out in response to fears generated by obsessions. The classic OCD condition is that of compulsive hand washing in response to an irrational fear of germs/contamination. Sufferers of this disorder feel less anxious once they have carried out a compulsion. It is possible to experience obsessive thoughts only and not have the desire to carry out a compulsion.
Examples of compulsions are excessive cleaning, counting, checking, measuring, and repeating tasks or actions. Trichotillomania (compulsive hair-pulling) may also be classified under the general umbrella of OCD. Examples of obsessions are worrying excessively about death, germs, illness – usually AIDS, cancer, etc. (this can also be classified as an ‘Illness phobia’,) having undesirable sexual thoughts, fearing causing harm to others.