What is OCD?

OCD is characterized by uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions) that can lead people to engage in repetitive behaviors (compulsions).

Although everyone worries or feels the need to double-check things on occasion, the symptoms associated with OCD are severe and persistent.

These symptoms can cause distress and lead to behaviors that interfere with day-to-day activities. People with OCD may feel the urge to check things repeatedly or perform routines for more than an hour each day as a way of achieving temporary relief from anxiety. If OCD symptoms are not treated, these behaviors can disrupt the functioning like in work, school, and personal relationships and can cause feelings of distress.

OCD symptoms can appear in childhood, around age 10, or in young adulthood, around age 20 to 21, and they often appear earlier in boys than
in girls. Most people are diagnosed with OCD by the time they reach young adulthood.

Signs and Symptoms

People with OCD may have obsessions, compulsions, or both.
Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety.

Common obsessions include:
⊲ Fear of germs or contamination
⊲ Fear of forgetting, losing, or misplacing something
⊲ Fear of losing control over one’s behavior
⊲ Aggressive thoughts toward others or oneself
⊲ Unwanted, forbidden, or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, or harm
⊲ Desire to have things symmetrical or in perfect order

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person feels the urge to do in
response to an obsessive thought. Common compulsions include:
⊲ Excessive cleaning or handwashing
⊲ Ordering or arranging items in a particular, precise way
⊲ Repeatedly checking things, such as that the door is locked or the gas knob is off
⊲ Compulsive counting

Some individuals with OCD also have a tic disorder. Motor tics are sudden, brief, repetitive movements, such as eye blinking, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and head or shoulder jerking. Common vocal tics include repetitive throat-clearing, sniffing, or grunting sounds. people with OCD also tend to have a diagnosed mood disorder or anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of OCD may come and go, ease over time, or worsen. People with OCD may try to help themselves by avoiding situations that precipitate their obsessions, or they may use alcohol or other substances to calm themselves. Although most adults with OCD recognize that their compulsive behaviors don’t make sense, some adults and most children may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary.

What causes OCD?

Several brain areas, brain networks, and biological processes play a key role in obsessive thoughts, compulsive behavior, and associated fear and anxiety.

The exact causes of OCD aren’t known; however, a variety of factors are associated with an increased chance of developing the disorder.
Genetics is one factor associated with OCD. Studies have shown that having a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) with OCD is associated with an increased chance of developing the disorder. Some other biological factors may play a role. Brain imaging studies have shown that people with OCD often have differences in the frontal cortex and subcortical structures of the brain, areas of the brain that underlie the ability to control behavior and emotional responses.


Treatment for OCD typically includes specific types of psychotherapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy), medication, or a combination of the two. A Psychiatrist can talk about the benefits and risks associated with different treatment options and help identify the best treatment for you. Selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common type of medication prescribed for the treatment of OCD. With SSRI treatment, it may take up to 8 to 12 weeks before symptoms begin to improve, and treatment for OCD may require higher SSRI doses than are typically used in treating depression. People respond to medication in different manners, but most people with OCD find that medication, often in combination with psychotherapy, can help them manage their symptoms.

Your Psychiatrist can adjust medication doses over time to minimize any side effects. Do not stop taking your medication without consulting your psychiatrist.