Obsessive-compulsive Disorder: What Is It?

Reviewed Nov 10, 2017

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Summary

  • Obsessions are repeated thoughts or images.
  • Compulsions are rituals done in response to obsessions.
  • Both can be managed with treatment.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a widely known but misunderstood disease. It is at least half as common as bipolar illness, and as frequent as schizophrenia. OCD affects about one percent or more of adults in the U.S. It seems to affect men and women of all ethnic groups equally. OCD was once blamed on character flaws or poor parenting. It is now thought to be caused by genetic and environmental factors. OCD may be a long-term illness, but through proper treatment recovery is possible.

As its name implies, OCD is made up of obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions

Obsessions are thoughts or images that repeatedly occur in one’s mind. They can be very disruptive and disturbing. The person will often realize his obsessions are irrational. At the same time, he is not able to stop them. This leaves him feeling nervous and afraid.

Some common obsessions:

  • Feeling one’s hands are full of germs
  • Feeling something important is being left not done
  • Feeling of impending doom
  • Feeling of causing harm to one’s self or loved ones
  • Feeling items are out of place or order
  • Feeling too much guilt about religion
  • Feeling repulsed by sexual urges

Compulsions

Compulsions are rituals done in response to obsessions. These acts are an attempt to control the obsessions. The person does not want to repeat the rituals, but feels compelled to do so. She feels something bad will happen if she does not do them. Doing the rituals will not make the obsessions go away but may give some temporary relief.

Some common compulsions:

  • Repeatedly washing hands
  • Checking and rechecking things
  • Touching and arranging things
  • Repeating sequences of steps
  • Repeating words
  • Counting

Many people have obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors from time to time. This does not mean the person has OCD. OCD causes a real disruption in one’s everyday life. A person with OCD has these thoughts and behaviors for over an hour each day.

Causes and treatment

OCD usually begins in childhood, or the teen or early adult years. OCD tends to run in families. If a parent or sibling has it, there is about a one-in-four chance that their child will also get it. There is evidence to suggest a chemical imbalance may be involved. Serotonin is one such chemical that has been linked to OCD. Stimulating certain brain areas through drug or behavior therapy can help reduce OCD symptoms.

There may be periods of time when OCD symptoms will get better or worse. Stress and other factors can play a role in how OCD develops. A healthy lifestyle can prove to be helpful. This includes eating a balanced diet and getting regular sleep and exercise.
 
OCD symptoms do not just go away on their own. Through proper treatment recovery is possible. This may be in the form of behavior therapy, drug therapy and other recovery tools. Many people try to hide their OCD. However, OCD is nothing to be ashamed of. If you believe you may have OCD, reach out for help.

Resources

National Alliance on Mental Illness
www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Obsessive-compulsive-Disorder

National Institute of Mental Health
www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness, www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Obsessive-compulsive-Disorder; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-among-adults.shtml
Reviewed by Paulo Correa, MD, Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Obsessions are repeated thoughts or images.
  • Compulsions are rituals done in response to obsessions.
  • Both can be managed with treatment.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a widely known but misunderstood disease. It is at least half as common as bipolar illness, and as frequent as schizophrenia. OCD affects about one percent or more of adults in the U.S. It seems to affect men and women of all ethnic groups equally. OCD was once blamed on character flaws or poor parenting. It is now thought to be caused by genetic and environmental factors. OCD may be a long-term illness, but through proper treatment recovery is possible.

As its name implies, OCD is made up of obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions

Obsessions are thoughts or images that repeatedly occur in one’s mind. They can be very disruptive and disturbing. The person will often realize his obsessions are irrational. At the same time, he is not able to stop them. This leaves him feeling nervous and afraid.

Some common obsessions:

  • Feeling one’s hands are full of germs
  • Feeling something important is being left not done
  • Feeling of impending doom
  • Feeling of causing harm to one’s self or loved ones
  • Feeling items are out of place or order
  • Feeling too much guilt about religion
  • Feeling repulsed by sexual urges

Compulsions

Compulsions are rituals done in response to obsessions. These acts are an attempt to control the obsessions. The person does not want to repeat the rituals, but feels compelled to do so. She feels something bad will happen if she does not do them. Doing the rituals will not make the obsessions go away but may give some temporary relief.

Some common compulsions:

  • Repeatedly washing hands
  • Checking and rechecking things
  • Touching and arranging things
  • Repeating sequences of steps
  • Repeating words
  • Counting

Many people have obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors from time to time. This does not mean the person has OCD. OCD causes a real disruption in one’s everyday life. A person with OCD has these thoughts and behaviors for over an hour each day.

Causes and treatment

OCD usually begins in childhood, or the teen or early adult years. OCD tends to run in families. If a parent or sibling has it, there is about a one-in-four chance that their child will also get it. There is evidence to suggest a chemical imbalance may be involved. Serotonin is one such chemical that has been linked to OCD. Stimulating certain brain areas through drug or behavior therapy can help reduce OCD symptoms.

There may be periods of time when OCD symptoms will get better or worse. Stress and other factors can play a role in how OCD develops. A healthy lifestyle can prove to be helpful. This includes eating a balanced diet and getting regular sleep and exercise.
 
OCD symptoms do not just go away on their own. Through proper treatment recovery is possible. This may be in the form of behavior therapy, drug therapy and other recovery tools. Many people try to hide their OCD. However, OCD is nothing to be ashamed of. If you believe you may have OCD, reach out for help.

Resources

National Alliance on Mental Illness
www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Obsessive-compulsive-Disorder

National Institute of Mental Health
www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness, www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Obsessive-compulsive-Disorder; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-among-adults.shtml
Reviewed by Paulo Correa, MD, Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Obsessions are repeated thoughts or images.
  • Compulsions are rituals done in response to obsessions.
  • Both can be managed with treatment.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a widely known but misunderstood disease. It is at least half as common as bipolar illness, and as frequent as schizophrenia. OCD affects about one percent or more of adults in the U.S. It seems to affect men and women of all ethnic groups equally. OCD was once blamed on character flaws or poor parenting. It is now thought to be caused by genetic and environmental factors. OCD may be a long-term illness, but through proper treatment recovery is possible.

As its name implies, OCD is made up of obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions

Obsessions are thoughts or images that repeatedly occur in one’s mind. They can be very disruptive and disturbing. The person will often realize his obsessions are irrational. At the same time, he is not able to stop them. This leaves him feeling nervous and afraid.

Some common obsessions:

  • Feeling one’s hands are full of germs
  • Feeling something important is being left not done
  • Feeling of impending doom
  • Feeling of causing harm to one’s self or loved ones
  • Feeling items are out of place or order
  • Feeling too much guilt about religion
  • Feeling repulsed by sexual urges

Compulsions

Compulsions are rituals done in response to obsessions. These acts are an attempt to control the obsessions. The person does not want to repeat the rituals, but feels compelled to do so. She feels something bad will happen if she does not do them. Doing the rituals will not make the obsessions go away but may give some temporary relief.

Some common compulsions:

  • Repeatedly washing hands
  • Checking and rechecking things
  • Touching and arranging things
  • Repeating sequences of steps
  • Repeating words
  • Counting

Many people have obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors from time to time. This does not mean the person has OCD. OCD causes a real disruption in one’s everyday life. A person with OCD has these thoughts and behaviors for over an hour each day.

Causes and treatment

OCD usually begins in childhood, or the teen or early adult years. OCD tends to run in families. If a parent or sibling has it, there is about a one-in-four chance that their child will also get it. There is evidence to suggest a chemical imbalance may be involved. Serotonin is one such chemical that has been linked to OCD. Stimulating certain brain areas through drug or behavior therapy can help reduce OCD symptoms.

There may be periods of time when OCD symptoms will get better or worse. Stress and other factors can play a role in how OCD develops. A healthy lifestyle can prove to be helpful. This includes eating a balanced diet and getting regular sleep and exercise.
 
OCD symptoms do not just go away on their own. Through proper treatment recovery is possible. This may be in the form of behavior therapy, drug therapy and other recovery tools. Many people try to hide their OCD. However, OCD is nothing to be ashamed of. If you believe you may have OCD, reach out for help.

Resources

National Alliance on Mental Illness
www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Obsessive-compulsive-Disorder

National Institute of Mental Health
www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness, www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Obsessive-compulsive-Disorder; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-among-adults.shtml
Reviewed by Paulo Correa, MD, Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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