What does it look like?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by overwhelming obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted intrusive thoughts, ideas, or images that are accompanied by distress or discomfort. Compulsions or rituals are deliberate, repetitive, excessive behaviors to decrease the anxiety created by obsessions. Compulsions include, but are not limited to, repeated washing, checking, praying, arranging, mentally neutralizing, repeating, and asking for reassurance.

People with OCD often describe their obsessions as senseless and unreasonable. They try to stop the thoughts and resist the obsessions, but are usually unsuccessful. The obsessions focus on the possibility of danger, harm, or responsibility of danger. They misinterpret the thoughts as being more significant than they need to be. The anxiety and distress increase as the importance of the thought grows. They feel the only way to decrease the anxiety and possible danger is to perform a ritual.

Who is affected?

According to the International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation, the best estimates are about 1 in 100 adults (or between 2 to 3 million adults in the United States) currently have OCD.

Where does it come from?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a brain-behavioral disorder. It is an illness that happens because of many complicated events. Researchers still do not know the exact causes of OCD. Family genetics may play a role in the development of the disorder, but that is only part of the picture. No one really knows what other factors might be involved. The International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation explains “Research suggests that OCD involves problems in communication between the front part of the brain and deeper structures. These brain structures use a chemical messenger called serotonin. Pictures of the brain at work also show that in some people, the brain circuits involved in OCD become more normal with either serotonin medicine or cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).”

When does it happen?

OCD can start at any time from preschool to adulthood. Although OCD does occur at earlier ages, there are generally two age ranges when OCD first appears. First, between ages 10 and 12; Second, between the late teens and early adulthood.

How do we treat it?

The most effective treatment is Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Exposure Response Prevention.