HeadMeds gives young people in the United Kingdom general information about medication. HeadMeds does not give you medical advice. Please talk to your Doctor or anyone else who is supporting you about your own situation because everyone is different. Please read more important details about our site.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety related disorder. OCD is made up of obsessions (thoughts or worries that make you feel anxious), anxiety (maybe feeling scared, depressed or guilty) and compulsions (rituals or things you do to reduce anxiety, like counting, arranging or repeating actions).

Around 1 in every 50 people have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at some point in their lives – that’s about 1 million people in the UK.

People with OCD know their thoughts and feelings are irrational but believe the only way to ease the anxiety is to carry out the rituals.

OCD is different to obsessive-compulsive behaviour (OCB). With OCB, the person likes and enjoys making things neat and tidy, putting things into pairs, lining things up, etc. With OCD, the person feels an uncomfortable and compelling drive to do the same things over and over again, checking and re-checking things, and really does not like this at all.

So when you hear someone say something like “She’s really OCD about that”, this isn’t quite right, because they are actually referring to OCB, not OCD.

Treating OCD

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) estimates 1-2 per cent of the UK population have OCD.

OCD can be inherited and run in the family, or may be caused by stress, life changes, or a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Depending on how severe the disorder is, your GP will offer self help, therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), or antidepressant medication such as Sertraline.

Antidepressants can take a few weeks to get into your system and start working, and must be taken regularly.

Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

If you are suffering from OCD, symptoms might include:

  • Worrying about something in an obsessive way, ie horrible thoughts about something bad happening to you or your family, you doing something terrible such as stabbing someone.
  • Repeated compulsions or urges to do something to make things better or prevent the bad thing happening, such as repeated hand washing, counting things or repeating an action over and over again.

If you would like more information about OCD and the ways it affects young people, you can visit the YoungMinds website.

You may also be able to access more information about OCD and the medicines used to treat it on the Choice and Medications website (www.choiceandmedication.org), which is usually free to access via your mental health trust.


If your doctor suggests that medication may help you, the HeadMeds website medications search will provide you with more information about the medication they are recommending, how it works, how you should take it and how you might feel. It should also be able to answer any questions you might have about going on medication. 


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Common medications for this condition

  • Citalopram

    Other names:


  • Fluoxetine

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  • Paroxetine

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  • Sertraline

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