Health Information

Condition Detail

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

(OCD)

Definition

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder . The person suffers from unwanted repetitive thoughts and behaviors.

Causes

The cause is of OCD is unknown. OCD may be due to neurobiological, environmental, genetic, and psychological factors. An imbalance of a brain chemical called serotonin may play a major role.
Genetic Material
Chromosome DNA
The genes that you inherit from your family may play a role in the development of OCD.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase the risk of OCD include:
  • Age: late adolescence, early adulthood
  • Family members with a history of OCD

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:
  • Obsessions—unwanted, repetitive, and intrusive ideas, impulses, or images; common obsessions include:
    • Persistent fears that harm may come to self or a loved one
    • Unreasonable concern with being contaminated
    • Unreasonable concerns about safety
    • Unacceptable religious, violent, or sexual thoughts
    • Excessive need to do things correctly or perfectly
    • Persistent worries about a tragic event
  • Compulsions—repetitive behaviors or mental acts to reduce the distress associated with obsessions; common compulsions include:
    • Excessive checking of door locks, stoves, water faucets, and light switches
    • Repeatedly making lists, counting, arranging, or aligning things
    • Collecting and hoarding useless objects
    • Repeating routine actions a certain number of times until it feels right
    • Unnecessary rereading and rewriting
    • Mentally repeating phrases
    • Repeatedly washing hands
Conditions associated with OCD include:
If you have OCD, you may know that your thoughts and compulsions do not make sense, but you are unable to stop them.

Diagnosis

OCD is usually diagnosed through a psychiatric assessment. OCD is diagnosed when obsessions and/or compulsions either:
  • Cause significant distress
  • Interfere with your ability to properly perform at work, school, or in relationships

Treatment

Treatment reduces OCD thoughts and compulsions, but does not completely eliminate them. Common treatment approaches include a combination of medication and therapy.

Medications

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) reduce OCD symptoms by affecting serotonin levels. Tricyclic antidepressants can also help treat symptoms.
Your doctor may try using other psychiatric medications to help control your condition.

Therapy

Behavioral therapy addresses the actions associated with OCD. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) addresses both the thought processes and the actions associated with OCD.
Treatment of OCD is tailored to meet your particular needs.
Examples of therapies used to treat OCD include:
  • Exposure and response prevention—involves gradually confronting the feared object or obsession without giving into the compulsive ritual linked to it
  • Aversion therapy—involves using a painful stimulus to prevent OCD behavior
  • Thought switching—involves learning to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts
  • Flooding—involves being exposed to an object that causes OCD behavior
  • Implosion therapy—involves being repeatedly exposed to an object that causes fear
  • Thought stopping—involves learning how to stop negative thoughts

Prevention

There are no guidelines for preventing OCD because the cause is not known. However, early intervention may be helpful.

RESOURCES

Anxiety Disorders Association of America http://www.adaa.org

International OCD Foundation http://ocfoundation.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Mental Health Association http://www.cmha.ca

Canadian Psychological Association http://www.cpa.ca

References

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated June 27, 2013. Accessed September 9, 2013.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml . Accessed September 9, 2013.

OCD risk higher when several variations in gene occur together. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2008/ocd-risk-higher-when-several-variations-in-gene-occur-together.shtml . Published April 7, 2008. Accessed September 9, 2013.

4/16/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Simpson HB, Foa EB, Liebowitz MR, et al. A randomized, controlled trial of cognitive-behavioral therapy for augmenting pharmacotherapy in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Am J Psychiatry. 2008;165:621-630. Epub 2008 Mar 3.

Revision Information