​Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions).  The repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, checking on things or cleaning, can significantly interfere with a person's daily activities and social interactions.  These thoughts are persistent and unwanted routines and behaviors are rigid, and not doing them causes great distress.  Typical compulsions might include cleaning, repeating, checking, ordering and arranging, and mental compulsions.
Diagnostic Criteria

*The person must have both obsessions and compulsions

*The obsessions and compulsions must significantly impact daily life

*You may or may not realize that the obsessions and compulsions are excessive and unreasonable


*Intrusive, repetitive and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that cause distress

*The thoughts do not just excessively focus on real problems in your life

*You unsuccessfully try to suppress or ignore the disturbing thoughts, urges, or images

*You may or may not know that your mind simply generates these thoughts and that they do not pose a true threat


*Excessive and repetitive ritualistic behavior that you feel you must perform, or something bad will happen

*The ritualistic compulsions take up at least one hour or more per day

*The person performs these physical rituals or mental acts to reduce the severe anxiety caused by the obsessive thoughts


Signs of Obsessions include:

*Repeated, unwanted ideas

*Fear of contamination

*Aggressive impulses

*Thoughts that you might cause others harm

*Thoughts that you might be harmed

*Thoughts that you might get sick or catch a disease after touching something

Signs of Compulsions include:

*Constant checking

*Constant counting

*Repeatedly washing hands

*Repeatedly cleaning in a ritualistic way

*Arranging items in a very particular way

​*Having to walk, touch things, open things in a ritualistic way



Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT):  The effective CBT strategy is called exposure with response prevention.  In this treatment, patients are exposed to the situations that create anxiety and provoke compulsive behavior or mental rituals.  Through exposure, patients learn to decrease and then stop the rituals that consume their lives.

Medication:  Medication is often prescribed in conjunction with CBT.  Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be effective in the treatment of OCD.