May 10, 2023

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, commonly known as OCD, is a mental health condition that affects millions of people around the world, including Canada. OCD is a chronic and often debilitating disorder that can cause intense and distressing thoughts and repetitive behaviours. In this article, we will explore what OCD is, what causes it, its symptoms, and available treatments. 

What is OCD disorder?

OCD is a mental health disorder that involves obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are persistent, intrusive, and unwanted thoughts, images, impulses or doubts that cause distress or anxiety. Compulsions are repetitive behaviours or mental acts that individuals feel compelled to do in response to their obsessions. OCD can take many forms, and individuals may experience different obsessions and compulsions.

What is the root cause of OCD?

The exact cause of OCD is unknown, but research suggests that it is likely a combination of biological, genetic, and environmental factors. Brain imaging studies have shown that people with OCD have different brain activity in certain areas of the brain, particularly in the orbitofrontal cortex and the basal ganglia. These areas are involved in decision-making, planning, and movement control. Additionally, some research has suggested that OCD may be related to imbalances in certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin.

What is OCD behaviour?

OCD behaviour refers to the repetitive, ritualistic behaviours, compulsions or mental acts that individuals with OCD feel compelled to perform. These behaviours can take many forms, such as excessive cleaning, checking, counting, or arranging objects. Individuals with OCD often feel like they must perform these behaviours to reduce their anxiety or prevent something bad from happening.

Read More: OCD during COVID-19

What are OCD symptoms?

The symptoms of OCD can vary from person to person but the following are the typical ones:

Obsessions: persistent, intrusive, and unwanted thoughts, images, impulses or doubts that cause distress or anxiety, such as:

  • Fear of contamination: excessive concern about germs, disease, or getting dirty
  • Fear of harming oneself or others: intrusive thoughts or images of violence, harm, or accidents
  • Intrusive sexual or religious thoughts: unwanted sexual or religious thoughts or images that go against personal values or beliefs.

Compulsions: repetitive behaviours or mental acts that individuals feel compelled to do in response to their obsessions, such as:

  • Excessive cleaning or hand-washing: washing hands or cleaning surfaces repeatedly and excessively to reduce fears of contamination.
  • Checking: repeatedly checking things like locks, appliances, or personal items to ensure they are safe or secure
  • Ordering or arranging: feeling the need to arrange objects or perform tasks in a certain way to reduce anxiety or prevent harm.
  • Mental rituals: repeating certain words, prayers, or counting to neutralize unwanted thoughts or images

Anxiety and Depression: OCD can lead to significant anxiety, worry, and depression due to the distressing nature of obsessions and compulsions, as well as their impact on daily life and relationships.

Avoidance Behaviours: Individuals with OCD may avoid certain situations or activities that trigger their obsessions or compulsions, such as avoiding public spaces or social interactions. This can lead to isolation and difficulty functioning in daily life.

What is mild OCD?

Mild OCD refers to a form of OCD where the symptoms are less severe and do not significantly interfere with daily functioning. Individuals with mild OCD may experience occasional obsessions or compulsions, but they do not cause significant distress or disrupt daily life. However, even mild OCD can still be distressing and may benefit from treatment.

What is OCD treatment?

OCD is treatable, and there are several effective treatments available. The most common treatments for OCD include cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and medication. CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a specific type of CBT that is often used to treat OCD and involves gradually exposing individuals to their fears while encouraging them to resist performing their compulsions. Acceptance and Comittment Therapy (ACT) is another type of CBT that is showing some evidence of working well for CBT. It involves identifying personal values and moving towards these despite the presence of obsessions and compulsions, and incorporates mindfulness. Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can also be helpful in reducing symptoms of OCD.

What is the best medicine for OCD?

The best medicine for OCD depends on individual circumstances and may vary from person to person. SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed medications for OCD and can be effective in reducing symptoms. Other medications, such as clomipramine, may also be used to treat OCD.

What is the best treatment for OCD? 

The best treatment for OCD depends on the individual and their response to therapy vs medication. Sometimes a combination of medication and therapy for OCD, particularly CBT, is the best treatment for OCD. CBT can help individuals learn to respond differently to their obsessions, to dis-engage from compulsions and to reduce avoidance. ERP, a type of CBT, has been shown to be particularly effective in treating OCD. Additionally, ACT, mindfulness-based therapies and other complementary therapies may also be helpful in managing symptoms of OCD.

Read More: What is the Difference Between OCD and BFRBs and How Are They Related?

Archways Centre for CBT

Archways is a private psychology clinic located in Canada that specializes in evidence-based therapies that fall under the umbrella of cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT). Archways provides CBT services to adults, adolescents, and children with various mental health conditions, including OCD. The clinic's psychologists and therapists work with clients to identify and understand their symptoms and develop a personalized treatment plan that includes CBT, an evidence-based therapy. 


OCD is a complex and often distressing mental health condition that affects many people in Canada. While the exact cause of OCD is unknown, effective treatments, including CBT and medication, are available to help manage symptoms. Archways Centre for CBT is a private psychology clinic in Canada that offers evidence-based therapies, such as CBT, to individuals with OCD and other mental health conditions. If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, seeking professional help from a qualified mental health provider can make a significant difference in managing symptoms and improving the overall quality of life.

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