What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

The term ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’ or ‘OCD’ is often thrown around loosely in conversation. Sometimes people reference themselves as having ‘OCD’ because they think of themselves as anxious or highly organized. The reality is that OCD is a far more serious and pervasive mental health disorder than such comments would indicate and has a profound impact on someone’s comfort and well-being.

Many people who struggle with OCD might not even realize that it is affecting them at first. An individual struggling with OCD often has repetitive, intrusive, and sometimes upsetting thoughts that feel uncontrollable (obsessions) and/or feels a strong pull to act out certain behaviors to help themselves control their thoughts and feelings (compulsions).

What does OCD look like?

The way each person experiences OCD symptoms is unique. Sometimes people struggle with a thought, a fear, or an image that they can’t get out of their head. Other people might feel like they need to perform a task a particular way and can’t get comfortable or stop thinking about that task until they’ve completed it. For others, it’s both.

OCD symptoms can grow and worsen over time and usually become especially intense under times of great stress. Sometimes it can be hard for us to fully recognize that they are impacting us and happening.

If you are experiencing OCD symptoms, you might:

  • Feel afraid of being contaminated by germs and feel afraid to touch or interact with other people
  • Feel like you must do something over and over again, like walking through a doorway, until it feels ‘right’ enough
  • Feel scared that you can’t trust what you know to be true about yourself, such as feeling worried that you might hurt someone else.
  • Feel like you need to check things repeatedly, such as making sure the stove is off.
  • Feel like you need to count things in your mind and/or avoid or focus on certain numbers
  • Feel like you need to focus on using a particular part of your body for a particular task, such as your left hand or your right foot
  • Or have an upsetting image or thought that you can’t get out of your head

Why you should seek help:

Sometimes we feel pressure to continue to manage our symptoms without seeking help. You might be scared of what others think about what you’re struggling with, scared to admit how out of control your thoughts and feelings are getting, or feel like you are ‘weak’ in some way for failing to manage your symptoms on your own. Even if you manage your symptoms on your own successfully, OCD is an emotionally exhausting and draining disorder that can keep you uncomfortable and make it difficult for you to have the kinds of experiences you want to have in your life. Don’t hesitate to seek help and find relief if you need it.

If you think you are experiencing or struggling with any symptoms of OCD, please reach out to someone in your life for support. Schedule an appointment at the Counseling Center to find out more about what help is available to you at 610-519-4050.


Free, confidential counseling is available at the University Counseling Center, 206 Health Services Building, 610-519-4050.


For informational purposes only, the University Counseling Center offers access to online, anonymous Self-Assessment Tools. These resources are provided by third-parties unaffiliated with Villanova and the results are not shared with the University. These screenings are not a substitute for a complete evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. For personal assistance, please call the Counseling Center at 610-519-4050 for an appointment.



In an emergency, call Villanova Public Safety at 610-519-4444.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 988.