OCD: A Simple Definition

When I talk about OCD, I typically start with defining it. “It’s all in the name,” I say. “Obsessive. Compulsive. Disorder.”



OCD causes unwanted, intrusive, repeated thoughts that induce intense anxiety.


To alleviate the anxiety, an OCD sufferer performs some action or ritual.


The obsessions and compulsions cause harm and anxiety and disrupt daily life.


When someone asks me, “Do I have OCD?” I ask for their story and listen for all three parts.

Note: sometimes compulsions are a little harder to recognize because they might be internal and hard to see, but they’re there– I’m what’s called a “Pure-O,” but I still have(/had, thanks to ERP!) compulsions such as seeking reassurance, confession, and repetitive prayer.


6 thoughts on “OCD: A Simple Definition

  1. Hi Jackie,
    I am having what I think are HOCD thoughts. At least I hope they are. I’ve always been attracted to guys, but now I don’t know. I have these obsessive thoughts and they scare me. I don’t want to be gay. I have always wanted to marry a man and have a family, and now I feel like I can’t do that. I am constantly checking sources like yours for symptoms and trying to sort through everything in my head, but I can’t tell what’s real and what’s not. I’m miserable. Do u think this is OCD?

  2. Good post, Jackie, and I think it’s the “disorder” part that a lot of people don’t get. Just because someone obsesses or has some compulsions doesn’t necessarily mean they have OCD. Thanks for the explanation!

  3. Thank you for this, Jackie. As a therapist, and as a mom of a teen with OCD, I often hear confusion about the whole “Obsession” part of things. “I’m so obsessed about…” and then the person goes on to describe something they love and enjoy like garden gnomes or Star Wars. Obsessions are not a source or joy or pleasure. They are unwanted and create discomfort. Thanks for hitting the nail on the head. – Angie

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