Skip to main content

A person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) experiences obsessive recurrent thoughts or images which disturb them and make them anxious. To relieve these unpleasant feelings, they may feel obliged to carry out repetitive behaviours.

OCD is a mental health condition made up of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwelcome thoughts, images, urges or doubts that keep appearing in your mind and which can make you feel anxious. Compulsions are repetitive activities that you do to reduce the anxiety – for example, repeatedly washing your hands (if worried about contamination) or checking the door is locked (if worried about intruders). For some people, it may delay them for an hour or so, or completely take over their life.

Some people think OCD is about being tidy. But as the charity Mind points out, it’s about having poor control over your negative thoughts and being afraid that not doing things a certain way will cause harm.

OCD usually occurs in adults or in children from puberty. It isn’t known why some children have OCD, but scientists think genetics may have a part to play. Children don’t always talk about the fears and behaviours that OCD causes because they feel embarrassed or confused. They may try to hide their rituals, even though the rituals may be the only thing that makes them feel ‘everything is all right.’

Symptoms of OCD in children include finding it hard to concentrate on schoolwork or to enjoy activities; feeling irritable, upset, sad or anxious; having trouble making decisions; taking a long time to do everyday tasks like getting washed or dressed; getting upset if something isn’t perfect or isn’t just the way they think it should be.

Many young people with OCD have other mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. People with eating disorders often have OCD too.

Diagnosis and treatment

OCD can be treated by medication or by cognitive behavioural therapy, so it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor should refer you to a specialist at Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), who will find out more about the child before making a diagnosis. Parents are usually asked to get involved in the therapy too as parents can be taught how to respond to OCD situations in a way that will support their child’s progress.

Further information

For further information, visit

The national charities are OCD Action, OCD-UK and TOP UK.

Most popular Good Schools Guide articles

  • Special educational needs introduction

    Need help? Perhaps you suspect your child has some learning difficulty and you would like advice on what you should do. Or perhaps it is becoming clear that your child's current school is not working for him or her, and you need help to find a mainstream school which has better SEN provision, or to find a special school which will best cater for your child's area of need. Our SEN consultancy team advises on both special schools, and the mainstream schools with good SEN support, from reception through to the specialist colleges for 19+. Special Educational Needs Index

  • Uni in the USA... and beyond

    The British guide to great universities from Harvard to Hong Kong. We tell you how to choose, how to apply, how to pay.

  • The Good Schools Guide International

    Corona Virus As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, The Good Schools Guide International offers the following guidance:  Determine the global situation and that of individual countries on government mandated school closures by accessing the UNESCO information on this link:   For updates on the medical situation, go to  the World Health Organisation website at  If you wish to contact one of our GSGI listed schools to discover their current status or any plans for alternate learning strategies, please go to our database to find email and phone numbers for each school If your company makes you brexit, The GSGI should be your first…

  • Schools for children with performing arts talents

    At specialist music, dance or performing arts schools, the arts aren't optional extras. They’re intrinsic to the school curriculum. Students are expected to fit in high level training and hours of practice alongside a full academic provision. It's a lot to ask any child to take on, but for those with exceptional performing ability this kind of education can be transformative.

  • Finding a state grammar school

      There are currently around 163 state funded grammar schools located in 36 English local authorities, with around 167,000 pupils between them. There are a further 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland, but none in Wales or Scotland. Almost half of these are in what are considered 'selective authorities' (eg Kent and Buckinghamshire), where around one in five local children are selected for grammar school entry based on ability. The others are areas such as Barnet or Kingston, with only a few grammar schools. How to find a state grammar school Word of warning: not all selective grammar schools have…

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
 Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
 Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

The Good Schools Guide manifesto for parents