What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

From hoarding to hand-washing to forever checking the stove, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) takes many forms. It is an anxiety disorder that traps people in repetitive thoughts and behavioral rituals that can be completely disabling.

Surveys conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health show that 2 percent of the population suffers from OCD—that's more than those who experience other mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and panic disorder. OCD might begin in childhood, but it most often manifests during adolescence or early adulthood. Scientists believe that both a neurobiological predisposition and environmental factors jointly cause the unwanted, intrusive thoughts and the compulsive behaviors patterns that appease the unwanted thoughts.

Unless treated, the disorder tends to be chronic—lasting for years, even decades—although the severity of the symptoms may wax and wane over the years. Both pharmacological and behavioral approaches have proven effective as treatments; often a combination of both is most helpful.

Recent posts on OCD

The Usefulness of Worry

By Reid Wilson Ph.D. on October 24, 2016 in All about Anxiety
The unconscious mind will think that worry is solving problems. So it will stay in repeat mode. But that's wrong. Either worry triggers problem-solving or worry is useless noise.

Personality and the Brain, Part 7

After his injury, music literally draws Derek Amato's attention away from other tasks he has to perform.

Are You Obsessing Over Your Ex?

If your ex recently broke up with you, you may have OCD-like symptoms. The good news: standard self-help techniques for OCD may be able to speed up your recovery from the breakup.

Learning From Chris Sharma

By Reid Wilson Ph.D. on September 21, 2016 in All about Anxiety
What a no-ropes rock climber can teach us about tackling our Anxiety.

The 8-Ball from Hell of ASD: Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a dilemma with two prongs: the self-imposed need to get things exactly right, and self-inflicted criticism in the face of inevitable failure.

Othello Syndrome: Passion Can Be Pathological and Deadly

Psychotic jealously sometimes leads to stalking, murder, suicide

Canine Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

By Nicholas Dodman on August 07, 2016 in Dog Days
Have you ever wondered why some dogs exhibit pointless repetitive behaviors? I'm talking wrist licking, tail chasing, flank sucking, shadow chasing, and so on. If so, read on.

A free-range approach to treating OCD

...I just knew that my job was to find a cockroach, support David as he challenged his fears, and hold the camera steady...

The International OCD Conference: A Focus on Compassion

By Dennis Tirch Ph.D on July 27, 2016 in Practice Compassion
We look at the many reasons why compassion can enhance the treatment of OCD and anxiety.

Misdiagnosis of a Behavioral Addiction

By Jon E. Grant, JD, MD, MPH, Brian L. Odlaug, PhD, MPH, and Samuel R. Chamberlain, MD, PhD on July 12, 2016 in Why Can't I Stop?
Many people with behavioral addictions have been told that they have a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Gambling, ADHD, OCD and Kleptomania

By Mark D. Griffiths Ph.D. on July 07, 2016 in In Excess
Papers in psychiatric journals have claimed that many of the characters in the Star Wars movies have underlying psychopathologies including pathological gambling, OCD and ADHD

The More I Check, the Less Confident I Feel

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on June 23, 2016 in Think, Act, Be
Trying to find certainty through repeated checking in OCD is bound to backfire.

Children, Dogs and the Power of Unconditional Love

For these kids, the human/dog bond really does lead to hope and healing.

When Clients Confess to Crimes They Did Not Commit

What if your client confessed to harming a child, but you were sure it didn't happen? A psychologist weighs the options and debates whether to report or not report.

Move Yourself to Feel Better

Emotions are not always reasonable

How to Stop Mild Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior

The Mayo Clinic defines OCD as: "unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead you to do repetitive behaviors." Here’s a quick tip to help stop mild obsessive-compulsiveness.
used with permission from iclipart

Have You Ever Wished Someone Was Dead?

Many of us have wished someone would die or disappear when we're angry. But how common is it to actually fantasize about committing murder?

What You Need to Know if Your Child or Teen Has OCD

Children and teens with OCD must learn to tolerate and overcome their own emotional distress.

4 Myths About OCD

Even though OCD is more prevalent than celiac disease, few people understand how to separate the facts from fiction when it comes to the illness.

The OCD, Super Diligent, Over-Conscientious Boss

By Adrian Furnham Ph.D. on April 29, 2016 in A Sideways View
Being careful and detail oriented is often a very desirable at work. But is this optimal rather than maximal. Can there be too much of a good thing with regard to diligence.

Interview of an OCD Therapist: Dr. Doronn the Ironwoman

By Jean Kim M.D. on March 29, 2016 in Culture Shrink
The best way to tackle the demons of obsessive-compulsive disorder is to face them head-on.

Consider This for Children and Teens With OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can greatly disrupt the lives of children and teens. Here is expert advice to manage it.

A Misunderstanding Central to OCD

By Fredric Neuman M.D. on March 27, 2016 in Fighting Fear
Persons suffering from Obsessive-compulsive disorder imagine the world to be more dangerous than it is. In particular, they think substances are dangerous even in tiny amounts.

Did Einstein Show Asperger's Traits?

Psychological traits of Einstein and 11 others including Lincoln, Howard Hughes, Warhol, and Darwin, and how they coped with inner adversity are examined in this new book.

Why Alyssa Coco’s Mind is “Like a Burning Clock”

By Michael Friedman Ph.D. on March 14, 2016 in Brick by Brick
Alyssa Coco of Roses and Revolutions shares her struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Unhinged. The Complete Story

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on January 29, 2016 in How To Do Life
A story about obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Unhinged, Part 1

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on January 28, 2016 in How To Do Life
A story about obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Mental Rituals in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on January 27, 2016 in Think, Act, Be
What is the "Pure O" form of obsessive-compulsive disorder? Does it really exist? And can the best psychotherapy for OCD help if there are no obvious compulsions?

2 Keys for Conquering Your Worst Case Scenarios

Sometimes our imaginations make our fears feel horrifyingly real. How can we counter this common tendency?