What is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. It is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.

Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviors an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.

The latest Singapore Mental Health Study revealed that one in 28 Singaporeans has suffered from OCD in their lifetime, making it the third-most prevalent condition in Singapore, after Major Depressive Disorder and alcohol abuse. The good news is, OCD can be managed and with proper treatment, people with OCD can live normally and meaningfully.

Signs and Symptoms

People with OCD may have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions, or both. These symptoms can interfere with all aspects of life, such as work, school, and personal relationships.

Common Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety. Common symptoms include:

  • Fear of germs or contamination.
  • Fear of harming others.
  • Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, or harm.
  • Aggressive thoughts towards others or self.
  • Having things symmetrical or in a perfect order.

Common Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought. Common compulsions include:

  • Excessive cleaning and/or handwashing.
  • Ordering and arranging things in a particular, precise way.
  • Repeatedly checking on things, such as repeatedly checking to see if the door is locked or that the oven is off.
  • Compulsive counting or saying certain words.


A combination of medication and therapy is often the best method to fight OCD. Along with treatment, a strong network of social support for a person with OCD can increase his/her confidence in this journey.