​At a glance

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) “involves constant unwanted thoughts, and often results in the performance of elaborate rituals to try to control or banish the persistent thoughts. People with obsessive compulsive disorder are often acutely embarrassed and keep their rituals a secret, even from their families.” (Australian Department of Health)

Obsessive compulsive disorders are part of the anxiety disorders group:

  • Obsessions are unwanted thoughts based on fears. Examples might be thoughts about dirt, disease or something bad happening.
  • Compulsions are the fear-based behaviours and an overwhelming urge to do activities which can include repeating, checking and counting. Examples might be washing hands often, cleaning, putting things in a special order, checking, and constantly asking for reassurance. There can be rituals and routines that need to be followed.
  • Even when the person realises that they are having problems, they are not able to stop the thinking or the need to do the tasks.

The reason OCD is considered an anxiety disorder is because it is driven by fear. The obsessions are obsessed about because of fear. Compulsions continue because people fear what will happen if they do not continue this behaviour. This should be recognised… because it is essential for empathy for people with this diagnosis.

- A person with lived experience of a mental health condition


The Beyond Blue website provides information and support for anxiety to help people “achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live”.

What is obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?
This web page has information about what OCD is, signs, symptoms, causes and treatments.
Type: Web page
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Produced by: Beyond Blue

What is an anxiety disorder? (Translated Fact Sheets)
The fact sheet describes anxiety disorders, outlining the main types (including OCD), possible causes, treatment options and suggestions on where to go for help. The factsheet is available in a number of translated languages.
Type: Fact Sheet
Length: 6 pages
Produced by: Mental Health in Multicultural Australia
Translations: Yes

Get to know anxiety: Obsessive Compulsive
A video on the experience of living with obsessive compulsive disorder.
Type: Video | Closed captions
Viewing time: 3.35
Produced by: Beyond Blue

OCD Mythbusters: Neatfreaks and Germophobes
This is a video of people sharing their experiences and talking about the myths around OCD.
Type: Video | Closed captions
Viewing time: 1.02 minutes
Produced by: SANE Australia

Current as at: Monday 20 January 2020
Contact page owner: Mental Health Branch