Obsessions are thoughts, images or impulses that occur over and over again and feel outside of the person’s control. Individuals with OCD do not want to have these thoughts and find them disturbing. In most cases, people with OCD realize that these thoughts don’t make any sense. Obsessions are typically accompanied by intense and uncomfortable feelings such as fear, disgust, doubt, or a feeling that things have to be done in a way that is “just right.”

Compulsions are the second part of obsessive compulsive disorder. These are repetitive behaviors or thoughts that a person uses with the intention of neutralizing, counteracting, or making their obsessions go away. People with OCD realize this is only a temporary solution but without a better way to cope they rely on the compulsion as a temporary escape. Compulsions can also include avoiding situations that trigger obsessions. Obsessions and compulsions are time consuming and get in the way of important activities the person values.

About OCD

What age does OCD start?

​​OCD can start at any time from preschool to adulthood. Although OCD may occur at earlier ages, there are generally two age ranges when OCD first appears:

  • Between ages 8 and 12
  • Between the late teens and early adulthood

How common is having OCD or another anxiety disorder?

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).
  • OCD is equally common among men and women.

How long does it take most people to get OCD treatment?
Studies find that it takes an average of 7 to 10 years from the time OCD begins for people to obtain appropriate treatment.

How effective is OCD treatment?
Both psychotherapy and medication, when properly used, can substantially improve OCD symptoms in a majority of patients – up to 60-70%.  There is considerable evidence supporting the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of OCD.  CBT is typically delivered in a structured program, consisting of: Psychoeducation, cognitive training, mapping OCD, graded exposure and response prevention (ERP), and relapse prevention and generalization training. A patient’s adherence to practicing exposure therapy is one of the strongest predictors for both immediate and long-term outcomes.  CBT is typically considered the first-line treatment when available. It is very important to find a practitioner who specializes in OCD to receive the most therapeutic benefit. 

What causes OCD?
Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.  We don’t know what causes OCD.  We do know that it can run in families. Researchers are actively searching genetic variations that may help explain why one person gets OCD and another does not. Genes are not the whole story, though: even identical twins, who have identical genetic material, can differ, with one having OCD and the other not.
Environmental causes of OCD are not clear. Some cases, especially among children, may be related to an autoimmune reaction to infection, though this remains unclear in most instances. Stressful life events can cause symptoms to appear or to worsen; it is not clear whether they actually cause OCD in a susceptible person, or whether they just worsen or amplify a condition that was already there. Hormonal fluctuations may also influence OCD; onset is common during adolescence, and some women report symptoms worsening with their menstrual cycle or around the time of pregnancy.

obsessive compulsive disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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​Common OCD Sub-types ​

Contamination OCD – fears of germs or getting sick and dying from exposure to something dirty or unsafe resulting in excessive washing, showering and/or cleaning.

Just Right / Symmetry OCD – Needing things to be in just the right position or the same on both sides in order to alleviate tension or a sense of incompleteness.

Scrupulosity / Religious OCD – fear of doing or thinking something that might be immoral or offensive to God or your religion and excessive worry about going to hell.  Fear of doing or thinking something that might be counter to your ethical or moral values.

Checking OCD – the need to repeatedly check your stoves, heaters, appliances, doors, and other items to be sure you are safe.

Postpartum OCD – intrusive, irrational thoughts of hurting your baby and checking behaviors and reassurance seeking that you would not or have not done anything harmful.

Harm OCD – fear of hurting another person especially a loved one or people who are important to you.  Excessive fear and doubt about whether you’ll go crazy and hurt yourself or commit suicide even though the idea of hurting or killing yourself is the last thing you want to do and you have absolutely no intention of acting on this thought.

Relationship OCD – obsessive, irrational thoughts about relationship issues such as your partner’s faithfulness, obsessive jealousy or doubt about your love for your partner.

Sexual OCD – thoughts of a sexual nature that you find immoral or repugnant.

Sexual Orientation OCD/Gay OCD – excessive doubt about whether you are gay even though you are straight.

Health Concern OCD – excessive, irrational worry about getting a disease such as HIV, cancer or a sexually transmitted disease.

Hit and Run OCD – obsessive worry that you hit someone with your car and the need to go back and check to relieve anxiety.Type your paragraph here.