Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


The National Institute of Mental Health defines Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.  These obsessions and compulsions must extend beyond an hour a day to be clinically significant, however most people suffering from OCD spend far more than an hour a day focused on these obsessions and compulsions.  An alarming 3.3 million Americans suffer from OCD.  Though Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is typically diagnosed by age 19, people can often develop symptoms as late as 35 years old.

Although there is not a known “cause” for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, childhood abuse often contributes to the development of the disorder.  There is also research to support that the brains of those affected by OCD function differently than those of people not affected by OCD.

Obsessions are the thoughts that cause the patient distress or anxiety.  These unwanted thoughts are commonly things such as:

  • Fear of germs
  • Unwanted thoughts about taboo subjects
  • Aggressive thoughts
  • Requiring symmetry or order perfection

Compulsions are urges to engage in certain behaviors following an obsession. Common compulsions include:

  • Excessive cleaning
  • Ordering/arranging objects precisely
  • “Checking,” e.g.: for locked doors, etc.
  • Counting