Is the experience of obsessing familiar to you? Do you sometimes find yourself obsessing about something for hours and hours? Do these obsessions cause you a lot of anxiety? If you do, then there is a chance you might be suffering from OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder. OCD is a fairly common mental disorder present in about two percent of the population, and is characterized by recurrent thoughts that cause anxiety to the sufferer. These thoughts can be about anything, not just cleanliness as it is often erroneously presented. OCD obsessions may very well be about word phrases, people, situations in our life whether real or imagined and pretty much anything else you might think of.
Those obsessions are known to cause compulsions. Just like obsessions, compulsions can present themselves in any imaginable way, be it a certain bodily gesture, a ritual or very often a completely mental act like counting numbers in your head or trying to push the thought away.
OCD can be a very serious problem, and while some OCDers deal with it fairly well by themselves, anyone suffering from OCD should seek treatment, and anyone who suspects they might have OCD should try and get themselves diagnosed.
While the causes for OCD are not completely clear, the most popular medical theory is to do with a physiological dysfunction of a certain part of the brain that's in charge of stopping and starting thoughts, due to a misfiring of certain neurons. That means that anyone, from any cultural and social background can have OCD. OCD was found to be present in mammals other than humans, such as dogs.
Most OCDers (about 80%) also suffer from frequent depression. While OCD can't be healed at this time, it can be treated extremely effectively.
The best known treatment for OCD today is a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a special form of psychological treatment combined with drug treatment of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor family (SSRI), such as Prozac and more recently Paxil. This type of treatment has astounding success rates with 95% of the patients exhibiting great improvement in their situation.
If you want to get a preliminary diagnosis for OCD, check out http://www.mentalhealth.com/ for an online diagnosis procedure. Note that this test, as admitted by the original authors, should not be considered final! It diagnosed me as not having OCD, while two psychologists afterwards did. If you disagree with the results and suspect you might have OCD nonetheless, try any of the below listed online resources as jumpstart points.
http://members.aol.com/afocd/afocd.htm (Resource Center)
http://www.ocdresource.com/ (Resource Center)