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Conditions InDepth: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). People with OCD feel they cannot control these obsessions and compulsions. Repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, counting, hoarding, touching objects, seeking reassurance, making lists, checking, or cleaning, are often performed in the hopes of reducing anxiety or anxiety-provoking obsessions. However, performing these so-called rituals provides only temporary relief. Left untreated, the obsessions and compulsions can take over a person's life. OCD is often a chronic, relapsing illness.
The cause of OCD is not known. It is believed to develop from genetic, biologic, environmental, and psychological factors.
OCD may be associated with other disorders, including:
- Tourette syndrome—characterized by multiple motor and vocal tics
- Trichotillomania—the repeated urge to pull out scalp hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, or other body hair
- Body dysmorphic disorder—imaginary or exaggerated defects in appearance
- Eating disorders—such as bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa
- Hypochondriasis—morbid concern for one's own health, including delusions that one is suffering from a disease or diseases for which no physical basis is evident
- Substance abuse
Additional disorders that may accompany OCD include depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other anxiety disorders.
According to the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation, 1 in 50 Americans has OCD during the course of a given year. The first symptoms of OCD often begin during childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood.What are the risk factors for OCD?What are the symptoms of OCD?How is OCD diagnosed?What are the treatments for OCD?Are there screening tests for OCD?How can I reduce my risk of OCD?What questions should I ask my doctor about OCD?What is it like to live with OCD?Where can I get more information about OCD?
About OCD. International OCD Foundation website. Available at: https://iocdf.org/about-ocd. Accessed January 13, 2017.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd. Updated June 13, 2016. Accessed January 13, 2017.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml. Updated January 2016. Accessed January 13, 2017.
- Reviewer: Adrian Preda, MD
- Review Date: 12/2016
- Update Date: 10/11/2019