What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

OCD is characterized by persistent uncontrollable unwanted feelings or thoughts (Obsessions) and routines and rituals (Compulsions) to try to prevent, neutralize or eliminate these unwanted feelings or thoughts. Common compulsions include washing hands and cleaning excessively due to contamination fears or repeatedly checking something. However, OCD can manifest a variety of unusual obsessions and compulsions.

What are the symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is characterized by the presence of obsessions, compulsions or both.

Obsessions are defined by
  • Recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and unwanted and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.
  • The person attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action (i.e. by performing a compulsion).
Compulsions are defined by
  • Repetitive behaviors (hand washing, checking, ordering, repeating actions) or mental acts (praying counting repeating words silently) that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.
  • The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing anxiety or distress, or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive.
The obsessions or compulsions are time-consuming (e.g. take more than an hour per day) or cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

What are the causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

There is no one simple identifiable cause of OCD. However, factors of temperament such as greater internalizing of symptoms, higher negative emotionality and behavioral inhibition in childhood are possible risk factors. Physical and sexual abuse in childhood and other stressful or traumatic events have been associated with an increased risk for developing OCD. Some children may develop the sudden onset of OCD symptoms, which has been associated with different environmental factors, including various infectious agents and a post-infectious autoimmune syndrome. Genetic factors also increase the rates of OCD.


Subtypes of OCD:

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and what are the symptoms of BDD?

BDD is an intense preoccupation with a perceived flaw in physical appearance which can lead to attempts to change it (plastic surgery) or cover it up, social avoidance, or depression and hopelessness.

Read more about Body Dysmorphic Disorders here.

What is Hoarding Disorder and what are the symptoms?

It is characterized by persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. Read more about Hoarding Disorder here.

Note: Other OCD Subtypes, Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs): Trichotillomania (Hair Pulling) and Excoriation Disorder (Skin Picking) are discussed on a separate page.

How can you treat Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Dr. Dufford and Anxiety Treatment Services provide integrative and comprehensive therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) including individual therapy and behavioral fieldwork.  Modalities include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and a specific type of behavioral therapy called Exposure and Response Prevention, Hypnotherapy, and Meditation/Mindfulness.


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