People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, otherwise known as OCD, experience recurrent irrational and intrusive thoughts, which they can’t dismiss with reasoning or logical thinking. Intrusive thoughts seem to come out of nowhere and cause a great deal of anxiety and distress.
Most people get intrusive thoughts from time to time, for example, you may have the thought “my family member won’t make it home tonight” or “perhaps I should drive into this oncoming traffic’. The typical response to such thoughts is to identify them as a little odd, let them go and move on. You may feel strange after the experience, but the distress caused by these thoughts is fleeting.
In contrast, people with OCD experience intrusive thoughts much more frequently and the distress caused by them is significantly greater. To obtain a diagnosis of OCD, your symptoms must cause significant impairment in work, social or other important areas of life. To deal with the distressing thoughts, people with OCD often engage in repetitive rituals (called ‘compulsions’) to reduce their anxiety.