What is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a psychological anxiety disorder in which an individual experiences obsessions and compulsions that interrupt their ability to function in daily life. Obsessions are intrusive thoughts that are often irrational. These thoughts can cause distress, anxiety and dysfunction. An example of an obsessive thought could be “My hands are contaminated”. Compulsions are repetitive rituals like hand washing, counting, checking, hoarding or arranging. These activities can momentarily relieve the anxiety caused by the individual’s obsessions, but also often cause physical or psychological harm to the individual. Common obsessions include:

  • Fear of contamination (fear of dirt, germs, body fluids or diseases).
  • Repeated doubting (e.g, whether the stove is turned off).
  • Focus on exactness and order.
  • Preoccupation with religious images and thoughts.
  • Fear of harming oneself or others.
  • Forbidden or unwanted sexual thoughts, images or urges.

Common compulsions include excessive:

  • Cleaning/washing (e.g, washing hands too often, repeatedly cleaning household items or other objects).
  • Checking (e.g, repeatedly checking paperwork for mistakes).
  • Ordering/arranging (e.g, making sure objects are in a certain order).
  • Hoarding (collecting seemingly useless items, such as paper, magazines, or bottles).
  • Mental rituals, such as counting, or repeating words.

OCD occurs more in women than in men. Symptoms often begin in childhood and develop in the teenage years and young adulthood. The cause for OCD can be genetic, psychological and social. Usually OCD can’t be cured, tends to spike during periods of stress, but can be managed through therapy. Best practice treatment includes a combination of SSRI medication and Cognitive Behavior Therapy.