Mental Illness: Facts about Obsessive–Compulsive Disorders

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Facts about Obsessive–Compulsive Disorders

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder have persistent, upsetting thoughts (obsessions) and use rituals (compulsions) to control the anxiety these thoughts produce. Most of the time, the rituals end up controlling them. Common rituals include a need to repeatedly check things, touch things (especially in a particular sequence), or count things. People with OCD may also be preoccupied with order and symmetry, have difficulty throwing things out, or hoard unneeded items.

Healthy people also have rituals, such as checking to see if the stove is off several times before leaving the house. The difference is that people with OCD perform their rituals even though doing so interferes with daily life and they find the repetitions distressing. Although most adults with OCD recognize that what they are doing is senseless, some adults and most children may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary.

  • OCD affects about 2.2 million American adults.
  • OCD can be accompanied by eating disorders, other anxiety disorders, or depression.
  • One-third of adults with OCD develop symptoms as children, and research indicates that OCD might run in families.
  • OCD affects men and women with equal frequency.

OCD usually responds well to treatment with certain medications and/or exposure-based psychotherapy, in which people face situations that cause fear of anxiety and become less sensitive to them.

Mental illness at a glance:

Introduction | Depression | Bipolar Illness | Suicide | Schizophrenia | Anxiety Disorders | Panic Disorder | Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder | Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder | Social Phobia | Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

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