Are your thoughts and behaviors affecting your quality of life? If so, you may have OCD. It’s normal to sometimes think about the same thing over and over. Or to go back and double check that you locked the door or turned off the light. But if you have uncontrolled thoughts running through your mind or constantly feel compelled to repeat behaviors to ease the anxiety caused by your disturbing thoughts, you might have a condition called obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) and resulting actions (compulsions) often interfere with daily living.
What are the signs of OCD?
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder are plagued by bothersome thoughts and fears. They often perform repetitive behaviors in an attempt to ease the stress and anxiety caused by these thoughts. The thoughts and behaviors are anxiety-producing, time-consuming and often interfere with daily living. However, you may not realize how excessive they are.
Some signs of OCD include:
- Being constantly focused on specific subjects, such as a fear of germs or intruders, needing things very orderly, worrying about harming yourself and others or having other unwanted thoughts
- Performing actions repetitively, such as hand washing, locking doors, counting or following strict routines
What causes OCD?
Surveys conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health show that 2% of the population suffers from OCD. The exact cause of the condition is not completely understood, but scientific studies indicate that OCD may result from a number of factors including:
- A biological predisposition
- Environmental factors, including experiences and attitudes acquired in childhood
- Faulty thought patterns
The fact that many OCD patients respond to SSRI antidepressants suggests the involvement of dysfunction in the serotonin neurotransmitter system. Ongoing research suggests there may also be a defect in other chemical messenger systems in the brain.
At what age do people get OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder usually begins in the teen or young adult years. Symptoms often vary in severity throughout life and may come and go. Times of increased stress tend to make symptoms worse. OCD symptoms can range from very mild (where they don’t disrupt your life) to so severe and time-consuming that they become disabling. Treatment of OCD usually doesn’t make it completely go away but it can help bring symptoms under control.
When should you see a doctor?
If you find that your thoughts and resulting actions are affecting your quality of life, it’s best to see your doctor or mental health professional. OCD may be effectively treated. Common treatments include talk therapy and medication.
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Date Last Reviewed: August 22, 2019
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD