What Is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

People with obsessive compulsive disorder are often overwhelmed by unwanted and disturbing thoughts, images, or urges—known as obsessions. Such obsessions lead to repetitive actions or mental acts that are defined as compulsions. Therefore, obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms become time consuming and lead to psychological distress.

Examples of OCD obsessions include fears about safety, aversion to germs or dirt, and taboo thoughts about sex and violence. Common obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms or types of OCD compulsions include repeatedly checking locks, excessive hand washing or cleaning, and obeying a set of rigid rules. The compulsions are an irrational reaction to the obsession—an attempt to prevent a feared outcome from occurring. However, such compulsions make obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms worse over time.

Although no clear cause is known, types of OCD do tend to run in families. As an anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder is treatable. Moreover, without proper treatment, OCD tends to be a progressive disorder. Effective OCD treatments include Cognitive Behavior Therapy, medications, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

Sources: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services AdministrationNational Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)