Obsessions are thoughts that increase anxiety, i.e., fear of germs, fear of death, fear of bad happenings; compulsions are actions that decrease anxiety, i.e., hard work, praying, counting, etc.
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) suffer intensely from recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) or rituals (compulsions) which they feel they cannot control. Rituals such as hand washing, counting, checking or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. Performing these rituals, however, provides only temporary relief, and not performing them markedly increases anxiety.
Left untreated, obsessions and the need to perform rituals can take over a person’s life. OCD is often a chronic, relapsing illness. Fortunately, through research supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and by industry, effective treatments have been developed to help people with OCD,