Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Understanding your anxiety


Everyone double checks things sometimes. However, people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) feel the need to check things repeatedly, do certain rituals over and over, or have repeated unwanted thoughts. OCD is an medical illness that can have devastating effects on your life.

Recent statistics about OCD

  • In the U.S., approximately 3.3 million people have OCD.
  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 0.3 to 1% of the pediatric population have OCD, and 1-2% of the adult population suffers from OCD.
  • OCD strikes men and women in roughly equal numbers.

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?

  • OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by repetitive, ritualized behaviors. These behaviors are triggered by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts (Obsessions) that create an urge to perform a certain activity (Compulsions). The compulsions aim to briefly relieve the anxiety created by the obsessions.
  • People with OCD can’t control their unwanted thoughts and behaviors.
  • OCD is a lifelong disorder that can cause disability.

Some common obsessions include:

  • Distress over dirt or contamination
  • Concern with illness or disease
  • A need to keep things orderly or symmetrical
  • Aggressive or violent thoughts of harming one’s self or others
  • Unwanted sexual or religious thoughts

Some common compulsions include:

  • Cleaning or washing repeatedly
  • Seeking constant reassurance from others
  • Following a strict ritual or routine
  • Repeatedly ordering or arranging items
  • Repeatedly counting
  • Repeatedly checking

OCD in children

  • OCD usually appears during childhood, adolescence or early adulthood.
  • Children must undergo a thorough medical and psychological examination, as symptoms of other mental disorders like ADHD, Tourettes syndrome or Autism can look like OCD.
  • Most people are diagnosed by about age 19.

Risk factors

  • Stressful or distressing events in life can increase the risk of OCD.
  • Research indicates that OCD might run in families.

Associated help

  • Consider getting involved in a support group. Like-minded people can help you overcome the challenges of OCD.
  • Try to follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and sleep adequately. These behaviors can positively influence your treatment.
  • If OCD is disrupting your daily functioning, you may consider seeking treatment from an experienced clinician. There are various medications and forms of psychotherapy can be very helpful for OCD.

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