What Does Living With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Feel Like?


Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and ritualized, repetitive behaviors that you feel compelled to perform. OCD is not uncommon — it affects millions of people worldwide. 2.3% of adults in the United States will experience it at some point in their lives.

OCD manifests itself in a variety of ways, and it certainly extends far beyond the common misconception that OCD is simply a habit of washing one’s hands or checking the light switches. Although those are valid OCD compulsions, such perceptions fail to recognize the distressing thoughts that precede such behaviors, as well as the utter devastation that constant compulsions (whatever they are) can cause.

If you have OCD, you probably recognize that your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are irrational—yet you feel powerless to resist them and break free. Many clinical research companies are conducting OCD clinical trials that can benefit people by educating them about their OCD and providing potential novel obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment options.

What Are Obsessions?

Obsessions are anxiety-inducing thoughts. They can be negative thoughts about what might happen. Or ideas about how things should be. They can be nagging doubts about whether everything is fine, or simply images or ideas about things that appear frightening, bad, or incorrect.

OCD causes these stressful thoughts to repeat themselves. They can be about anything. For many people suffering from OCD, these are about germs, injury, harm, or illness, things that appear to be bad, or wrong. Even when things are even, straight, or placed exactly as they should be, they believe colors or numbers that appear to be bad, unlucky, or have special meanings whether something might come true. 

What Are Compulsions?

Compulsions are behaviors that people with OCD have a strong desire to perform. They are also known as rituals. Rituals appear to someone with OCD to stop thoughts, fix things, be safe, or ensure bad things don’t happen. Rituals can take the form of actions or mental statements.

Here are some ritual examples. Someone living with OCD may feel compelled to:

  • Wash and clean repeatedly 
  • Erase, rewrite, or restart several times 
  • Repeat words, phrases, or questions
  • Check and double-check that something is closed, locked, clean, right, or finished
  • Touching, tapping, or stepping in an unusual manner or a predetermined number of times
  • Put things in the correct order, do things in a specific manner
  • Avoid things that appear unlucky, such as numbers or colors

What Is The Root Cause Of OCD?

Although it is unclear what causes OCD, some known factors include:


OCD can be inherited from one’s parents in some cases.

Biological/neurological factors:

According to some research, the development of OCD is linked to a chemical imbalance of serotonin in the brain.

Major life changes:

A new job or the birth of a child can place a person in a position of increased responsibility. This can set off OCD behavior.

Personal experience:

A person who has experienced severe trauma is more likely to suffer from OCD. For example, getting a severe rash from touching rat poison in the house can cause hand-washing compulsions.

Behavioral factors:

People who are extremely organized, neat, and meticulous, as well as those who like to be in charge from a young age, are at a higher risk of developing OCD.

What Is It Like Living With OCD?

Most people with OCD can tell that their thoughts and rituals are illogical. However, OCD causes them to be unsure. They have a strong desire to perform the ritual. They believe that if they don’t do it, something terrible will happen. Rituals initially provide some relief from negative thoughts and feelings. 

However, rituals multiply. They require more time and effort. And the anxious thoughts keep returning. This is how OCD develops into a stressful cycle. Instead of curing OCD, rituals perpetuate it.

Someone suffering from OCD will be bothered by such thoughts and rituals for more than an hour per day. They may check, arrange, fix, erase, count, or restart several times to ensure that everything is in order. They don’t want to consider these things. However, OCD makes it difficult to ignore thoughts. They are opposed to rituals. However, OCD makes them feel compelled to perform them.

OCD can manifest itself in a variety of areas of a person’s life. Getting dressed, eating breakfast, and doing schoolwork all appear to be stressful tasks. OCD can make it appear as if one choice could prevent a bad thing from happening. Or that another option may result in a negative outcome.

Someone suffering from OCD may not understand why they think, feel, or act the way they do. They may attempt to conceal their fears and rituals. They may be concerned about what others will think. They may even believe they are going insane — but they are not. The culprit of all this is OCD.

Why Do Some People Develop OCD While Others Do Not?

A person’s genes, like many other health conditions, play a role in whether or not they develop OCD. That is why OCD frequently runs in families. Genes can influence various brain regions’ chemistry, structure, and activity. With OCD, these differences cause unwanted thoughts to stick rather than encourage the person to move on. 

However, OCD persists due to rituals. The more rituals people perform, the stronger their OCD becomes. This occurs as a result of our brains learning to do more of what we practice. In addition, our brains learn to do more of what is rewarded. Rituals in OCD reward the brain with a sense of relief.

What Are The Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Treatment Options?

There is no sure way to avoid obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, seeking treatment as soon as possible may help prevent OCD from worsening and disrupting activities and your daily routine

Obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment options may not result in a cure, but they can help bring symptoms under control so that they do not dominate one’s life. Depending on the severity of their OCD, some people may require long-term, ongoing, or more intensive treatment.

Treatment options include:


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can assist one in changing their thought patterns. Your doctor will put you in a situation designed to cause anxiety or set off compulsions in a technique known as exposure and response prevention. You’ll learn to reduce, then eliminate your OCD thoughts or actions.

Lifestyle changes:

Relaxation. Meditation, yoga, and massage can all help with stressful OCD symptoms.


Many people benefit from psychiatric drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to help them control their obsessions and compulsions. It could take 2 to 4 months for them to start working. Citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft) are some examples. If your symptoms persist, your doctor may prescribe antipsychotic medications such as aripiprazole (Abilify) or risperidone (Risperdal).


When other obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment options no longer seem to make a difference, your doctor may suggest devices that alter the electrical activity in a specific area of your brain. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is one type that has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of OCD. It activates nerve cells by using magnetic fields. Deep brain stimulation, a more complex procedure, employs electrodes implanted in your head.

TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation):

The TMS unit is a non-invasive magnetic field generator that is held above the head. It works on a specific part of the brain that controls OCD symptoms.

Our Take On OCD

Being around someone who has OCD can be frustrating and disheartening at times. It is critical to remember that the person is not attempting to be a burden, but rather is attempting to cope with their anxiety as best they can. It’s a good idea to talk to them about getting help. Play an active role in helping a person’s recovery by encouraging them to face their fears regularly. The first step, however, must be to seek professional assistance and explore potential obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment options with your doctor. 

The Bottomline

OCD is characterized by irrational fear or obsession that leads to repetitive behaviors. Many people with OCD are aware that their actions are illogical, but when they try to ignore the urge to perform a specific action, their anxiety rises until they succumb to their compulsion.

Fortunately, effective treatments for OCD are available in the form of psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Many clinical research organizations conduct clinical trials, that may help people cope with OCD.