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OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a neurobiological disorder that causes unwanted and recurrent distressing thoughts (obsessions), as well as repetitive senseless rituals (compulsions). In spite of recognizing that their thoughts are irrational and their behaviors are excessive, individuals with OCD have little to no control over their thoughts and feel compelled to perform their compulsions. As a result, they experience intense anxiety, and often times, shame and sadness.  

Obsessions are recurrent thoughts, images, or impulses that cause unreasonable anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, or disgust. Common types of obsessions include:
  • Fear of dirt, germs, and contamination (e.g., fear that you may become contaminated by touching a door knob that others have touched)
  • Fear of acting on violent or aggressive impulses (e.g., fear that you may stab someone even if you do not want to)
  • Feeling overly responsible for others’ safety (e.g., fear that a loved one will be terribly hurt if you are not careful enough or do not do something the exact right way)
  • Excessive concern with order or symmetry (e.g., extreme discomfort when things are not aligned just the right way or are not even)
  • Repulsive sexual or religious thoughts (e.g., thoughts of blasphemy or sexual images involving incest)  

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts a person feels driven to do to reduce their distress or avoid some feared consequence. Common types of compulsions include:
  • Excessive washing and cleaning (e.g., washing hands so much that they are cracked and bleeding or cleaning things over and over or in a certain way)
  • Checking repeatedly (e.g., checking over and over to be sure the door is locked)
  • Arranging excessively (e.g., putting things in order until they look or feel “just right")
  • Repeating certain activities (e.g., rereading or rewriting things, turning the light off and on, touching or tapping things a certain way)
  • Mental rituals (e.g., counting certain objects, mentally reviewing events) Avoidance of situations that may provoke obsessions
  • Repeatedly asking for reassurance that things are ok or that you have done something correctly    

OCD affects approximately one in 40 adults and one in 200 children in the Untied States. It can be a debilitating disorder that can consume hours of an individual’s daily life, resulting in disruptions in their social, work/school, and family functioning. Not all recurring thoughts or repetitive behaviors are classified as OCD, but those that cause extreme distress and interfere with an individual’s life may be, and they require effective treatment. If you are concerned that you or a loved one is affected by OCD, contact your health care provider immediately.  

Continue reading here for more information on effective treatment for OCD. 

- Kara Meyer, Ph.D.

**The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other medical professional. This blog does not provide clinical advice, nor should its contents be considered clinical advice. Should you have any healthcare-related questions, please call or see your physician or other healthcare provider promptly.