Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common anxiety disorder that involves repetitive thoughts and controlling rituals. OCD affects over 3 million Americans and is often accompanied with eating disorders, depression or other anxiety disorders.

People with OCD are overwhelmed by constant fears and distressing thoughts, known as obsessions, which they cannot control. These obsessions can include fear of dirt or germs, harming others, making a mistake or being embarrassed. In order to counteract these obsessions, people with OCD will perform certain rituals, known as compulsions.

Common compulsions include:
  • Repeated bathing or washing hands
  • Counting while performing routine tasks
  • Arranging things in a certain way
  • Performing tasks a certain number of times
  • Touching things in a certain order

The true cause of OCD is not known, but certain biological and environmental factors play a role. Most cases develop in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. OCD treatment focuses on cognitive-behavior therapy which teaches patients to confront their fears and reduce anxiety without the use of rituals. Severe cases of OCD may require electroconvulsive therapy or psychosurgery to release neurotransmitters in the brain.

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