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Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a manifestation of anxiety, and is often marked by a cycle of compulsive or repetitive behaviours to help cope with intrusive or unwelcome thoughts. Therapists, particularly specialists in Exposure Response Prevention, can help people manage these symptoms.
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How do I know if I have ADHD? Does my child have ADHD?

Many people with ADHD aren't aware they have it. They will be aware however that everyday tasks seem more difficult for them than for others. Typical symptoms are finding it hard to focus, missing deadlines and trouble controlling impulses, ranging from impatience to mood swings and outbursts of anger. Other symptoms include:

  • Trouble multitasking.
  • Excessive activity or restlessness.
  • Poor planning.
  • Hot temper.
  • Trouble coping with stress.

What ADHD is not

The above list may be familiar to most people at different times in their lives. If these symptoms occur only occasionally, they probably don't have ADHD. A doctor usually diagnoses when someone’s symptoms cause problems that stop a person working, finding stable housing, or living normally and safely.

Diagnosis of ADHD in adults is often trickier because the same symptoms also occur in mental health conditions, such as anxiety or mood disorders. Many adults with ADHD also have at least one other mental health condition (depression and anxiety are the most common).

At what age do ADHD symptoms appear?

Symptoms usually start before the age of 12 and continue into adulthood.

How long does ADHD last?

ADHD is a lifelong condition, though it often becomes less marked in adulthood. But it can be effectively managed. The first step is to see a doctor and start seeking a diagnosis.

How many people have ADHD?

In the UK, the incidence of ADHD in school-aged children is thought to be between 3 and 5%. In adults it is between 3 and 4%.

What causes ADHD?

We still don’t know for sure. An enormous amount of research is focused on finding the causes of ADHD. Factors that may be involved include:

  • Genetics.
  • Environment.
  • Problems during development.

What are the risk factors for ADHD?

The risk of a person developing ADHD may increase if:

  • Family members suffer from ADHD.
  • During pregnancy the mother smokes, drinks, or uses drugs.
  • A child is premature.

What are the impacts of delayed diagnosis of ADHD?

ADHD has been linked to:

  • Poor school or work performance.
  • Unemployment.
  • Financial problems.
  • Trouble with the police.
  • Alcohol or drug misuse.
  • Unstable relationships.
  • Poor self-esteem.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Making the diagnosis normally includes:

  • Asking questions about symptoms and family medical history.
  • ADHD tests to measure symptoms.

What are the treatments for ADHD?

ADHD is normally treated through a two-pronged approach:

  • Medication.
  • Therapy.

ADHD medication

Doctors might prescribe stimulants for ADHD – which might seem counterintuitive, but has a strong evidence basis for regulating brain activity.

Some ADHD patients might also benefit from antidepressants or other medication, but in every case a doctor is best placed to advise on what to take.

Therapy for ADHD

Psychotherapy is indicated for people with ADHD but behavioural therapies can also help manage traits that make people with ADHD disorganised, and teach useful skills as well.

Help and information about ADHD

ADHD (NHS Choices)

NHS Choices provides information about the signs, symptoms and treatment for depression.

ADHD Foundation

For people with an ADHD diagnoses, this charity provides resources and advocacy.

Young Minds

Aimed at young people, this profile of ADHD explains what it is, how to seek treatment and mental health concerns for people with ADHD in a clear and straightforward way.

Click here to see practitioners who specialise in


Do I have OCD or am I just tidy?

OCD describes a cyclical pattern of intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours that affects a person’s quality of life and ability to live normally.

OCD is a mental health problem that people can spend years learning to manage. Keeping your environment clean or tidy is not the same as OCD, and people with OCD might feel offended if people confuse the two.

If keeping your environment clean or tidy feels compulsive, is an ever-present preoccupation, affects your quality of life or stops you living normally (for example, working or spending time with loved ones), then cleaning might be a sign of OCD.

What OCD is not

Intrusive thoughts, which form one part of the OCD cycle, are absolutely normal. What makes them part of an OCD presentation is an urge that follows, or a reaction to them that feels compulsive or out of control.

What types of OCD are there?

  • Checking. Checking OCD might rely on checking physical objects such as locks, letters, cars, or taps, or it might involve checking memories, text, emails, or getting reassurance. Some checking OCDs give people unreasonable doubts about whether or not they have accidentally become pregnant, caught an infectious disease such as HIV, or been aroused by something they don’t want to be.
  • Hoarding. If a person is unable to get rid of useless or worn-out objects, this type of OCD is commonly referred to as hoarding.
  • Contamination. Excessive doubts and worries about getting dirty or catching something are part of a common type of OCD. For example, people with contimatination OCD might struggle to have sex or masturbate, go out in public or crowds, or visit the GP or hospital. People with OCD might also fear ‘mental contamination’.
  • Ordering. People with OCD might feel an unreasonable amount of anxiety when objects are disordered or asymmetrical. People with an ordering OCD might feel a sense of dread or doom (for example, fear that a parent or child will die) for as long as objects appear disordered or unaligned.
  • Rumination. A person with rumination OCD finds it hard to accept or come to a satisfying conclusion to thoughts, to the extent that their inner life stops them working or enjoying relationships or interests. Rumination feels compulsive – that the train of thought cannot be left alone or concluded without risk of serious harm. Rumination might also lead to checking or reassurance-seeking.
  • ‘Pure O’. Although this type of OCD has been discredited by leading voices, the description of the condition might still be a useful way for people to recognise rumination OCD and ‘invisible’ compulsions. ‘Pure O’ was an attempt to classify OCD that appears to feature intrusive thoughts without compulsive behaviour; in fact, the compulsions people experience when they self-diagnose with ‘Pure O’ will simply be harder to identify. For example if a person can hide compulsive checking (such as reassurance-seeking) or ruminating then the OCD might go unnoticed or unremarked on.

How long does OCD last?

OCD can develop at any time in life, but tends to appear in puberty or adolescence. OCD is a chronic illness, but it can be managed and treated successfully, even if the first type of treatment does not work as well as hoped.

How many people in the UK have OCD?

Current estimates suggest 1.2% of the population is affected by OCD.

What causes OCD?

OCD might be triggered by stress or anxiety but doesn’t have a cause, per se. OCD might develop during a stressful period but people with OCD also describe it appearing ‘out of the blue’ or ‘out of nowhere’.

Even if people are not sure why they have OCD or where it came from, they still have as much right to treatment as someone whose OCD follows a stressful experience. Therapists do not need to know where OCD comes from or why you think you might have it to treat it.

What treatments are there for OCD?

Therapy for OCD

Many therapists specialise in treating OCD, and psychotherapy or talk therapy are a recommended treatment.

Exposure therapy for OCD

Exposure therapy helps people learn to cope with things that make them anxious throughout a very gradual, well-managed process. It is particularly well-suited to treating OCD.

Medication for OCD

Taking medication to manage anxiety can help a person manage OCD symptoms and also supports therapeutic work. SSRIs are one example of a common medical treatment for OCD symptoms.

Books, podcasts and events about OCD

The Man Who Couldn't Stop (2016)

David Adam's memoir of his experience of OCD became a Sunday Times bestseller after its publication.
Buy online

Help and information about OCD


A national OCD charity with good campaigns and resources on recovery.

OCD Action

A charity that provides information about OCD, and aims to improve rates of diagnosis in the UK.