What is obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic, anxiety disorder that causes one to have intrusive, unreasonable, and recurring thoughts (obsessions). These obsessions cause people to engage in repetitive, ritualistic behaviors (compulsions). The obsessions and compulsions can be frustrating and interfere greatly with one’s everyday life. Some examples of obsessions/compulsions people with OCD may experience are checking on things (such as seeing if the door is locked), cleaning, and hand washing. People may have an increase in their anxiety when they try to ignore their obsessions and compulsions because acting on their compulsions is a way for them to help relieve their stress.
In a lot of cases, people’s OCD has a theme, such as a fear of germs and contamination, causing one to obsessively wash their hands. Although people with OCD are often aware that their thoughts and compulsions are unreasonable, they cannot stop them. Symptoms of OCD usually begin during childhood/young adulthood but can affect people of all ages. 
Risk factors
  • Family history of OCD
  • Traumatic or stressful life events that could trigger the onset of intrusive thoughts and compulsions
  • Having other mental health disorders such as anxiety, substance abuse disorders, tic disorders (e.g., Tourette syndrome), or depression
To diagnose OCD, your doctor will likely take a look at your medical and family history. They will also pay close attention to your symptoms and your behavioral patterns. 
The steps that may be taken to diagnose OCD include:
  • Physical exam to rule out other problems that may cause your symptoms.
  • Blood tests may be done to screen for any alcohol or drug use or to check your thyroid function, which could be another cause of your symptoms. 
  • Psychological evaluation to assess your thoughts, feelings, behavioral patterns, and symptoms. It may be helpful for the doctor to talk to your family and friends as well. 
  • The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is published by the American Psychiatric Association and contains the updated diagnostic criteria for OCD. It can be a very useful tool when diagnosing this condition. 
Treatment for OCD is aimed at controlling symptoms so that people with this condition can live a happy, healthy life without their obsessions and compulsions interfering. 
Possible treatments for OCD include:
  • Psychotherapy 
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Clinical trials
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Antipsychotic medications
  • Approximately 2% (1 in 40) of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with OCD in their lifetime. 
  • OCD currently affects approximately 2.2 million people in the U.S.
  • OCD affects men and women equally
  • The average age of onset for OCD is 19
  • About 1/3 of adults with OCD experienced symptoms during childhood
  • About 25% of OCD cases occur before age 14
about obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • "Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 Sep. 2016. Web. 16 Nov. 2017.
  • “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.” National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Mental Health, Jan. 2016. Web. 16 Nov. 2017.
  • “What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.” American Psychiatric Association, Jul. 2017. Web. 16 Nov. 2017. 
  • “About OCD.” International OCD Foundation, n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2017. 
  • “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.” National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI, n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2017. 
  • “Facts & Statistics.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Aug. 2017. Web. 16 Nov. 2017.    



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