OCD: About Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a psychiatric illness characterized by persistent and intrusive obsessions and/or repetitive, time-consuming compulsions.
Obsessions are recurrent, intrusive thoughts, images, or impulses that feel inappropriate and distressing to the individual. They are not simply excessive concerns about every day problems. Some common obsessions are:
* Fear of dirt or germs
* Fear of accidentally causing harm
* Concern with order, symmetry, or exactness
* Violent or horrific images
* Sexually disturbing thoughts
* Frequent thoughts about particular sounds, images, words, or numbers
* Fear of losing important things
Compulsions are behaviors that one performs over and over again in an attempt to reduce the anxiety associated with an obsession or prevent a feared outcome. Some common compulsions are:
* Excessive cleaning or washing (e.g., washing hands repeatedly, brushing teeth again and again or in a certain way)
* Checking (e.g., repeatedly checking if the stove is turned off, going back again and again to see if the door is locked)
* Arranging items in a particular fashion
* Seeking reassurance (e.g. repeatedly asking someone else whether something bad has happened or whether something was done right)
* Repeating a particular behavior (e.g., going in and out of a door a certain number of times, standing up and sitting back down in a chair several times)
* Saving old items, such as newspapers, mail, or trash, when they are not needed
* Counting or doing something a certain number of times
* Repeating a certain word or phrase
Most often, people with OCD experience intrusive and disturbing obsessions and then perform rituals to reduce their anxiety and/or prevent something bad from happening. For example, someone with an excessive fear of germs or contamination may attempt to reduce their anxiety and prevent themselves (or others) from getting sick by washing their hands for several hours a day. Such behaviors can be extremely time-consuming and usually only provide temporary relief to the OCD sufferer's anxiety.
OCD can develop at any age, though in the majority of people symptoms begin before the age of 25. In adulthood, OCD affects men and women about equally. It is more common among boys when it develops during childhood.
How Can I Tell If I Have OCD?
If you answer yes to the following questions you may have OCD. Please note, however, that only a qualified clinician can provide you with a definitive diagnosis.
* Do you have recurrent, distressing thoughts that are difficult to control even when you try not to think about them (e.g., thoughts about contamination, danger, aggressive thoughts, religious thoughts, sexual thoughts)? Do you think you have those thoughts more than you ought to or more than makes sense to you?
* Are there things that you have to do over and over again and can't resist doing, like counting up to a certain number, washing your hands very often, or checking something to make sure that you have done it correctly? Do you think you perform these behaviors more than you ought to or more than makes sense to you?
If you would like to learn more about the treatment or research options for OCD at our clinic, please call 617-726-6766 or go to www.mghocd.org/ocd