Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). People with OCD feel they cannot control these obsessions and compulsions. Repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, counting, hoarding, touching objects, seeking reassurance, making lists, checking, or cleaning, are often performed in the hopes of reducing anxiety or anxiety-provoking obsessions. Performing these so-called rituals, however, provides only temporary relief. Left untreated, the obsessions and compulsions can take over a person's life. OCD is often a chronic, relapsing illness.
The cause of OCD is not known. It is believed to develop from genetic, biologic, environmental, and psychological factors.
OCD may be associated with other disorders, including:
According to the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation, one in 50 Americans has OCD during the course of a given year. The first symptoms of OCD often begin during childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood.
What are the risk factors for OCD?
What are the symptoms of OCD?
How is OCD diagnosed?
What are the treatments for OCD?
Are there screening tests for OCD?
How can I reduce my risk of OCD?
What questions should I ask my doctor about OCD?
What is it like to live with OCD?
Where can I get more information about OCD?
About OCD. Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation website. Available at: http://www.ocfoundation.org/whatisocd.aspx . Accessed September 8, 2008.
Braunwald E. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine . 15th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2001.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml . April 2008. Accessed September 8, 2008.
Stern, TA et al. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry . 1st ed. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier, 2008.
Last reviewed May 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
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