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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What is obsessive compulsive disorder?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder in which you have undesired and recurrent thoughts, feelings or behaviors. You may feel like you are constantly thinking about something (obsession), or you may feel the need to perform a certain action over and over (compulsion).

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. If you do not engage in your obsessions or compulsions, you may feel anxious or panicked. Obsessive compulsive disorder and other anxiety disorders affect about 18% of Americans. Numerous psychiatric disorders co-occur in people with obsessive compulsive disorder at rates higher than in the general population, including major depressive disorder and other anxiety disorders. The cause of obsessive compulsive disorder is not known, but it may be related to chemical imbalances or heredity (Source: NIMH).

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Symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder include repeated thoughts or images, repeated performance of rituals such as hand washing, and unwanted or uncontrollable thoughts or behaviors. Some people may develop tics. These thoughts and rituals are time consuming, do not bring you pleasure, and may upset you or interfere with your daily life.

Treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder includes psychotherapy, such as talk or behavioral therapy, and medication. Medications for obsessive compulsive disorder include antidepressants and antianxiety medications. With treatment, it is possible to manage obsessive compulsive disorder, though it does not go away.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms such as hearing voices or seeing things that are not there (hallucinations), having thoughts of harming yourself or others, or an inability to care for your basic needs.

Seek prompt medical care if you experience recurrent, unwanted thoughts or behaviors that interfere with your daily life or cause you distress.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 18, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). National Institute of Mental Health.
  2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih