Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is described as having obsessions and/or compulsions that are time-consuming and cause significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning. Obsessions are intrusive and unwanted thoughts, impulses, or images experienced as distressing or uncomfortable. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels compelled to do to relieve the anxiety or discomfort caused by the obsessions.

What Are Some Common Obsessions and Compulsions?

OCD displays itself in many different forms. It usually begins in adolescence or young adulthood, explains Dr. Lindsay Kiriakos, but it can start in childhood. It is more common in males than females, and it tends to run in families.

There are many different types of obsessions, but some of the more common ones include:

  • Fear of contamination or germs
  • Excessive concern with order or symmetry
  • Unwanted sexual or violent thoughts
  • Intrusive religious or moral thoughts

These obsessions often trigger compulsions, which are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels compelled to do to relieve the anxiety or discomfort caused by the obsessions. Some common compulsions include:

  • Excessive hand washing
  • Checking things over and over
  • Counting, tapping or repeating certain words or phrases
  • Arranging objects in a specific order
  • Needing to ask for reassurance

What is the Severity of OCD?

According to Lindsay Kiriakos M.D., a California-based psychiatrist, signs, and symptoms of OCD can vary from person to person. Some people have very mild symptoms, while others may be severely affected. The severity of the disorder is usually measured by how much time a person spends on obsessions and compulsions.

OCD can cause a great deal of anxiety and distress. People with OCD may avoid places or activities that trigger their obsessions. They may miss work or school or be less productive at their job or studies. They can have difficulty keeping friends or maintaining relationships because of their disorder. They may also become depressed, withdrawn, and isolate themselves from others entirely.

How Is OCD Diagnosed?

There is no single test that can diagnose OCD. A diagnosis is usually made based on a clinical evaluation, which includes a thorough history and a mental health assessment.

During the evaluation, the healthcare provider will ask about the person’s symptoms and how long they have been experiencing them. The provider will also ask about any family history of OCD or other mental health disorders.

In some cases, your doctor may order a blood test to rule out other medical conditions that could be causing the symptoms.

How Is OCD Treated?

Dealing with OCD can be a challenge, but many effective treatments are available. Dr. Lindsay Kiriakos, an OCD specialist, recommends cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy that helps people change their thinking and behavior. He notes that, depending on the severity, medication may also be necessary and are often very effective.

CBT for OCD usually consists of two main components: exposure and response prevention (ERP). Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing the person to the situations or objects that trigger their obsessions. This is done in a safe and controlled environment so that the person can learn to manage their anxiety. Response prevention is when the person is taught to resist the urge to perform compulsions.

In summary, OCD is a mental health disorder that is characterized by obsessions and compulsions. It often begins in adolescence or young adulthood, and it is more common in males than females. No single test can diagnose OCD, but it is usually diagnosed based on a clinical evaluation by a mental health professional. The most effective psychotherapy for OCD is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Medications can also be very effective. If you or someone you know is dealing with OCD, help is available.