Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is characterized by recurring, unwanted and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive, senseless behaviors or rituals (compulsions).

Rituals such as hand washing, counting, or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away, and not performing them markedly increases anxiety.

These obsessions, compulsions, and rituals often significantly interfere with a person’s normal family, social or work routines.

Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The obsessions, compulsions, and ritualistic behaviors ARE the symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety. OCD Obsessions may follow themes such as:

  • Orderliness and symmetry
  • Cleanliness or fear of contamination
  • Violent or aggressive thoughts about harming one’s self or others
  • Unwanted thoughts of a sexual or religious nature

Examples of specific symptoms of OCD Obsessions include:

  • Fear of being contaminated by objects others have touched
  • Doubt about whether common tasks have been performed, like locking the door or turning off an oven
  • Intense stress when objects are not lined up or orderly
  • Unwanted or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, or violence

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought. Similar to OCD Obsessions, OCD Compulsions typically have themes such as:

  • Cleaning and washing
  • Counting
  • Checking
  • Orderliness
  • Strict routines

Not all rituals or habits are compulsions. Everyone double checks things sometimes. But a person with OCD generally:

  • Can’t control his or her thoughts or behaviors, even when recognized as excessive
  • Spends at least 1 hour a day on these thoughts or behaviors
  • Doesn’t get pleasure when performing the behaviors or rituals, but may feel brief relief
  • Experiences significant problems in their daily life due to these thoughts or behaviors

Examples of specific symptoms of OCD Compulsions include:

  • Arranging canned goods to face the same way
  • Counting in certain patterns
  • Hand-washing until skin becomes raw
  • Silently repeating a phrase or prayer

OCD usually starts in teen or young adult years. Symptoms begin gradually and may come and go over time. OCD symptoms worsen under increased stress, and over time vary from mild to disabling.

Risk Factors for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The exact cause of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is not fully known, but several factors — including personality, genetics, and environment or experiences — appear to contribute to its development.

  • Genetics: Having parents or other family members with OCD can increase the likelihood that a person will develop OCD.
  • Environment / Experiences: Trauma and stressful events, such as abuse, the death of a loved one, divorce, changing jobs or schools, may contribute to GAD. GAD also may become worse during periods of stress.
  • Other Mental Health Disorders. A person who has depression or other anxiety disorders may be more prone to OCD.

Treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as “talk therapy” or counseling, is a vital component of treating anxiety disorders. There are a variety of specific psychotherapeutic approaches that can be explored in the treatment of anxiety disorders, including:

Medication does not cure anxiety disorders but can help relieve their symptoms. Antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medications may be used to treat the symptoms of panic disorder. Every individual will react to various medications in their own way, and several different medications, or combinations of medications, may be tried before finding one that improves symptoms with manageable side effects.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms and wish to seek treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, please contact me for an evaluation.

Also see Anxiety Disorders & Therapy »