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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors or actions (compulsions).


It's also possible to have only obsessions or only compulsions and still have OCD.


OCD obsessions are repetitive, constant and usually unwanted urges or images that cause distress or anxiety. Obsessions usually contain themes, such as:
  • Fear of contamination or dirt
  • Having things orderly and symmetrical
  • Aggressive or horrific thoughts about harming yourself or others
  • Unwanted thoughts, including aggression, or sexual or religious subjects
  • Obsession signs and symptoms include:
  • Fear of being contaminated by shaking hands or by touching objects others have touched
  • Doubts that you've locked the door or turned off the stove
  • Intense stress when objects aren't orderly or facing a certain way
  • Images of hurting yourself or someone else
  • Thoughts about shouting obscenities or acting inappropriately
  • Avoidance of situations that can trigger obsessions, such as shaking hands
  • Distress about unpleasant sexual images repeating in your mind
Compulsion symptoms As with obsessions, compulsions usually contain themes, such as:
  • Washing and cleaning
  • Counting
  • Checking
  • Demanding reassurances
  • Following a strict routine
  • Orderliness
Examples of compulsion signs and symptoms include:
  • Hand-washing until your skin becomes raw
  • Checking doors repeatedly to make sure they're locked
  • Checking the stove repeatedly to make sure it's off
  • Counting in certain patterns
  • Silently repeating a prayer, word or phrase
  • Arranging your canned goods to face the same way


There isn’t one exact factor that has been pinpointed to lead to OCD. Influences on OCD can include;

  • Biology. OCD might be result of changes in your body's own natural chemistry or brain functions. OCD can also have a genetic component, but specific genes have yet to be identified.
  • Environment. Some environmental factors including infections are suggested as a trigger for OCD, but more research is needed to be sure.


Psychotherapy A type of therapy called exposure and response prevention (ERP) is the most effective treatment. This therapy involves gradually exposing you to the feared object or obsession, such as dirt, and having you learn healthy methods to cope with your anxiety. Exposure therapy takes effort, practice, willingness, and time but you may enjoy a better quality of life once you learn to manage your obsessions and compulsions. Medications Some psychiatric medications may assist in controlling the obsessions and compulsions of OCD. Most commonly, antidepressants are first recommended. Antidepressants that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat OCD include:

  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox CR)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)

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