Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that features a pattern of unwanted thoughts or obsessions. People with OCD may find that these unwanted thoughts interfere with their daily life and may engage in compulsive behaviors as a result. They may feel driven to act on these unwanted thoughts, as a result, people with OCD may find that this mental illness is very time consuming.

Prevalence of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

OCD is very common in the US and, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 3 million adults (1.2% of adults) in the US have been diagnosed with this condition.

Symptoms and signs of OCD

People with OCD struggle with intrusive thoughts that lead to compulsive behaviors. Compulsions or compulsive behaviors are repetitive behaviors that the person feels driven to do.

Compulsive behaviors can include:

  • Excessive hand washing
  • Excessive cleaning
  • Arranging items in a very particular way
  • Repeatedly checking on things like doors, ovens, irons, or light switches
  • Compulsive counting

Compulsive behaviors can also surface as rituals such as:

  • Turning the light on and off a specific number of times
  • Locking the door in a certain manner
  • Turning the dial to specific numbers

Symptoms of OCD can be distinguished from other repetitive behaviors like bedtime routines, religious practices or skill memorization since symptoms of OCD are repetitive behaviors that have a negative impact on daily life. People with OCD feel driven to engage in compulsive behaviors but they don’t enjoy these compulsive behaviors. Many times, people with OCD engage in compulsive behaviors do so to escape their unwanted and intrusive thoughts.

OCD compulsions are typically driven by an intrusive thought. For many people with OCD these intrusive thoughts or obsessions follow certain themes. These themes can include: fear of dirt or germs, needing things to be orderly or symmetrical or horrific thoughts about losing control and harming others. Many people with OCD struggle with anxiety and with fear of harming others or themselves. OCD can present in obsessive thoughts about aggressions, shouting obscenities or unwanted sexual thoughts. Other obsessive thoughts people with OCD may struggle with can include religious obsessions or obsessions related to perfectionism.

Symptoms of OCD may have varying levels of severity over time. OCD is often considered a lifelong disorder and people with OCD may notice mild to moderate symptoms or the mental illness may be so severe as to be disabling.

There are certain factors that increase one’s risk of developing OCD. If family members suffer from OCD or if one experiences stressful life events, the risk of developing OCD increases. Other mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse or others, may be related to OCD. When seeking treatment for OCD, it’s important to consider treatment for other mental illnesses as well. Treating other co-occurring mental illnesses, may help alleviate the symptoms of OCD.

Symptoms of OCD can be managed in ways like medications or therapy. People with OCD should look for ways to reduce anxiety as anxiety can worsen symptoms of OCD. OCD typically responds well to treatment with some combination of medication or therapy reducing and alleviating symptoms of OCD.

OCD is a common mental illness, but OCD symptoms can be managed through medication and therapy. If you are interested in participating in a clinical research study for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, click here to learn more.