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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Definition

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder. A person with OCD has unwanted repetitive thoughts and behaviors.

Causes

The cause is of OCD is unknown. OCD may be due to a combination neurobiological, environmental, genetic, and psychological factors. An imbalance of a brain chemical called serotonin may play a major role.

Chromosome DNA
The genes that you inherit from your family may play a role in the development of OCD.
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Risk Factors

OCD is more common in late adolescence into early adulthood. Your risk is also higher if you have family members with a history of OCD.

Symptoms

OCD may cause:

  • Obsessions—unwanted, repetitive, and intrusive ideas, impulses, or images; common obsessions include:
    • Persistent fears that harm may come to self or a loved one
    • Unreasonable concern with being contaminated
    • Unreasonable concerns about safety
    • Unacceptable religious, violent, or sexual thoughts
    • Excessive need to do things correctly or perfectly
    • Persistent worries about a tragic event
  • Compulsions—repetitive behaviors or mental acts to reduce the distress associated with obsessions; common compulsions include:
    • Excessive checking of door locks, stoves, water faucets, and light switches
    • Repeatedly making lists, counting, arranging, or aligning things
    • Collecting and hoarding useless objects
    • Repeating routine actions a certain number of times until it feels right
    • Unnecessary rereading and rewriting
    • Mentally repeating phrases
    • Repeatedly washing hands

Conditions associated with OCD include:

  • Other anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Organic brain syndrome
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Attention deficit disorder

If you have OCD, you may know that your thoughts and compulsions do not make sense, but you are unable to stop them.

Diagnosis

OCD is usually diagnosed through a psychiatric assessment. OCD is diagnosed when obsessions and/or compulsions either:

  • Cause significant distress
  • Interfere with your ability to properly perform at work, school, or in relationships

Treatment

Treatment reduces OCD thoughts and compulsions, but does not completely eliminate them. Common treatment approaches include a combination of medication and therapy.

Prevention

There are no guidelines for preventing OCD because the cause is not known. However, early intervention may be helpful.

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