is obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD?
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder have
either obsessions, or compulsions, or both. The obsessions and/or compulsions are great
enough to cause significant distress in their employment, schoolwork, or personal and
What characteristics are associated with
People with obsessions are bothered by thoughts or images that continue to repeat
themselves and are almost impossible to ignore. These thoughts, which are annoying,
distracting, and inappropriate, tend to cause the person to have moderate to severe
anxiety and other emotional discomfort. Common obsessive thoughts include themes of
violence, fear of germs and/or infection, and doubts about ones character and/or
behavior. People who suffer from OCD worry excessively and often attempt to avoid or to
get rid of the bothersome thoughts by trying to replace them with more pleasant thoughts
Compulsions are behaviors. These specific behaviors are in direct response to the person's
troublesome, obsessive thinking. Therefore, people engage in the compulsive behaviors in
order to reduce their obsessive thoughts.
Some of the most prevalent compulsions are:
Are there genetic factors associated with
- Repeated checking of doors, locks, electrical appliances, or light switches
- Frequent cleaning of hands or clothes
- Strict attempts to keep various, personal items in careful order
- Mental activities that are repetitious, such as counting or praying
Yes, there are some genetic factors associated
with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Research shows that people who have OCD frequently
have close relatives who have a similar problem.
Does OCD affect males, females, or both?
In the United States, obsessive-compulsive
disorder affects males and females in equal numbers.
At what age does OCD appear?
Males tend to experience obsessions and
compulsions at an earlier age than females. OCD seems to frequently affect males somewhere
between the ages of six (6) and fifteen (15). It is more common for females to be first
diagnosed with OCD in late adolescence or early adulthood.
How common is OCD in our society?
It is believed that OCD affects between two to
three percent (2%-3%) of the U.S. population.
How is OCD diagnosed?
Commonly, obsessive-compulsive disorder is
first diagnosed when parents recognize that their young child or teenager seems
preoccupied with ritualistic behaviors associated with excessive cleanliness or unusually
meticulous organization, and they seek help from a mental health professional. Adults, on
the other hand, may seek professional help when they realize that it is becoming difficult
for them to do their job or school work because they are spending too much time with their
obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors.
Therapists make the diagnosis of OCD by taking a careful personal history from the
patient/client and any available family members, such as in the case of a young child.
How is OCD treated?
Some of the most common methods of treatment
for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder are behavior therapy, prescription
medication, or a combination of both. Current medications used for the treatment of OCD
include Anafranil (clomipramine), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Paxil (paroxetine), and Prozac
(fluoxetine). These medications can help diminish obsessive thinking and the subsequent
What happens to someone with OCD?
Although most people improve with adequate
treatment, the condition can continue for many years.
What can people do if they need help?
If you, a friend, or a family member would like
more information and you have a therapist or a physician, please discuss your concerns
with that person.
Page last modified or reviewed on January 4, 2010