What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of disorder in which one has uncontrollable obsessions, compulsions, or both. These may manifest as thoughts or anxieties, and one may feel compelled to perform certain actions or rituals in order to satisfy them. For example, you may be unable to escape the thought that if you leave the house without walking around your living room three times, then something bad will happen, even if you know it is illogical. 

About two million U.S. adults are living with OCD. This disorder can impact your life in many ways - from your performance at work or school, to your relationships, to making you feel self-conscious. OCD can be a chronic disorder; however, it is treatable. 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Symptoms

OCD has its own hallmark symptoms. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or your child, you should talk to your doctor about assessment and treatment for OCD. Obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms include:

  • An overwhelming fear of germs or contamination, or excessive hand washing
  • Ritualistic, repeated behavior to prevent unwanted outcomes, such as bad luck
  • Extreme devotion to cleanliness, tidiness, or having things organized in a certain manner, even if the system or reasoning is nonsensical
  • Compulsively counting, such as checking to make sure the toaster is unplugged a certain number of times every time you leave the house
  • Having certain behaviors or obsessions interfere with your daily life
  • Being unable to control the unwanted thoughts or feelings that drive you to perform certain rituals or actions
  • Being overly concerned about having things arranged or balanced in a certain way
  • Fear of losing control of yourself or causing harm to yourself or others if you do not perform certain actions
  • Unwanted thoughts that you cannot stop 
  • A significant amount of time is spent on one's obsessions and/or compulsions

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Causes and Risk Factors

Some common factors that may make you more likely to develop OCD include:

  • A family history of anxiety or depression
  • Childhood abuse or trauma
  • Abnormalities in certain areas of the brain
  • Brain damage or traumatic brain injury

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Treatment

Disorders such as OCD can feel like they affect every facet of your life, but with the right treatment plan, you and your care team can find the combination of treatments that works best for you and helps get your OCD under control. OCD treatment can include:

Medication: Anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants can help individuals with OCD manage their symptoms. Talk to a doctor to learn more about medication options.

Therapy: Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy and other related therapies, can help you learn to spot your triggers and cope with your symptoms. Find a provider using our care finder.

Education: Learn more about mental health and share that information with your loved ones. 

Support: Talking to other people who are going through the same thing that you are can help you learn new coping strategies and feel like you’re not alone. Find a support group at Sheppard Pratt.