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:
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.
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.
Last reviewed December 2016 by Adrian Preda, MD Last Updated: 10/11/2019