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Obsessive compulsive disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is when a person experiences obsessions, which are unwanted thoughts, images, urges or worries that reoccur in your mind causing anxiety. Some people describe ‘mental discomfort’ rather than anxiety. Compulsions are repetitive behaviours that someone does to ease the feelings of anxiety caused by the obsession. For example: repeatedly checking a door is locked or switching a light on and off several times.

The compulsions that occur are about a person trying to gain control over negative thoughts.

How they might feel

People who experience OCD experience obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are intrusive thoughts and anxieties that lead to compulsions, which are actions that someone may do to try to ease their obsessions.

A person experiencing OCD obsessions may:

  • Fears of causing or failing to prevent harm.
  • Intrusive or violent thoughts or images.
  • Intrusive thoughts about relationships.
  • Sexual intrusive thoughts.
  • Fear of contamination.
  • Fear that something bad will happen if something isn’t ‘right’.

Things you might observe

If someone is experiencing OCD you may observe compulsions and behaviours such as:

  • They may carry out rituals such as washing hands, or touching things in a particular order.
  • Checking things such as windows, doors, clothes, and body.
  • Correcting thoughts such as repeating word or phrase in your head or out loud.
  • Seeking reassurance such as repeatedly asking people to tell you that everything is OK.

In this video, Megan Blissett (Operations Manager for Wellbeing and Counselling) explains some common signs and symptoms of OCD and provides advice on how staff can support students in managing this complex condition.

If a student requires support but is not at immediate risk:

  • If the student discloses they have a diagnosis of OCD, discuss how they are managing the condition and if they feel they need any support.
  • Identify what practical support you can offer the student to support them on their course if they are finding it challenging.
  • If the condition they are experiencing has led them to unhealthy coping habits such as drinking excessively, taking drugs or self-harm refer to one of our specific toolkits for ways to support them.
  • If the student requires referral for specific issues, for example, they are struggling with money worries, have an accommodation issue or their issues are complex, then consider the routes in the ‘How to Refer’ section. Seek the student’s consent to refer and explain that they can also self-refer to Student Services.
  • If the student feels they are struggling to manage their condition recommend that they make an appointment with their GP. If the student is not registered with a GP provide them with information on how to register with a GP and refer them to the Mental Health & Wellbeing Team via 01695 650988 (extension 7988).
  • Make sure the student is aware of how to contact the Mental Health & Wellbeing Team and what they should do if at any point they feel they cannot keep themselves safe.
  • Be mindful that students with OCD might be considered to have a disability and therefore reasonable adjustments, such as exam modifications, might be a legal requirement. If you believe this might be the case then contact the Inclusion team for advice and guidance on 01695 657568 (extension 7568) as to how you should implement them.

If you are unsure of how to support a student or concerned that a student might be at risk. Contact the Mental Health & Wellbeing Team on 01695 650988 (extension 7265) for advice.

  • Don’t promise confidentiality.
  • Don’t minimise the student’s symptoms or the anxieties causing them.
  • Don’t feel you have to support the student with their condition, if they are struggling they will require specialist support.

Refer a student if:

  • You feel you can no longer provide practical advice or support to the student.
  • You feel the student requires more specialist support.
  • You feel the student is at immediate risk to themselves or others.

If you believe the student is an imminent risk to themselves or others, ideally do not let them leave your office or teaching room. Contact the Catalyst Helpdesk on 01695 650800 (extension 7800) and ask them to put you through to the Duty Wellbeing Adviser in Student Services. If it is out of hours, contact Campus Support on extension 01695 584227(extension 4227).

If a student is an immediate risk to themselves, you do not need the consent of the student to contact Student Services.

If a student is not at immediate risk to themselves but requires specialist support, you must obtain their consent to refer them to any of the following services as appropriate:

Team NameSupport OfferedContact Details
Academic RegistryProvide advice on and processing of course changes: transferring course/university, repeating a year, module changes, changing mode of study,

01695 584803
Accommodation teamProvide advice/guidance about accommodation both on and off campus, including hall fee

01695 650800
Campus LifeEnsure that students live in a safe/secure environment on campus. Promote and organise events to help students make the most of their time here and administrate the Disciplinary

01695 657570
Campus SupportProvides 24/7 support and security on campus.01695 584227
CareersProvide advice and support with career planning, job hunting, CV writing, volunteering and maximising work

01695 650800
ChaplaincyProvides both staff and students of all faiths and none with pastoral support. Activities/events focus on friendship, community, support and

01695 650800
Counselling (assessed through the Wellbeing team)Referral always via the Wellbeing team. Also provide group workshops and 1:1 therapeutic support to help students find solutions to issues they are

01695 650988
Disability and InclusionProvide advice and support for students with physical/sensory/mental health, autism spectrum disorders or other additional needs. Also provide advice and guidance on reasonable adjustments and support available. Support for specific learning needs – including dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD can be found via the Library and Learning Services SpLD

01695 657568

01695 650800

Law clinicProvide a free clinic to all staff and students run by Year 3 law students who can advise on legal questions or difficulties such as support with housing contract and employment law for example.Law Clinic
Money AdviceProvide advice on all money-related matters including student funding, budgeting, and the Student Support

01695 650800
Students’ UnionProvides representation for students and promotes and hosts activities/events. Provides advice and support to students on various issues including academic, housing, and

01695 657327
Student Support TeamTargeted support for Care Experienced and Estranged Students (CEES). Advice and support for all students who are thinking of leaving or at risk of withdrawing or being withdrawn.

01695 650800
Wellbeing teamFirst contact for mental health concerns. Practical advice, support and signposting for any issue impacting on a student’s

01695 650988

Students can self-refer to all of the above services and arrange appointments via the Catalyst Helpdesk.

Useful links and information

For more information about OCD, follow the links below.


NHS – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


Support and self-help resources for students
Staff training at Edge Hill University
Back to the mental health toolkit homepage