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

Doing Less to Conquer Your Fear

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on March 05, 2015 in Think, Act, Be
Therapists should avoid distraction during exposure treatment for OCD.

How to Break the Bonds of Victimhood and Build Self-Esteem

By Clifford N. Lazarus Ph.D. on February 18, 2015 in Think Well
Here are two simple ways to feel more in control of your life and better about yourself.

Body Language

By Mark D. Griffiths Ph.D. on February 17, 2015 in In Excess
Muscle Dysmorphia describes a condition characterised by a misconstrued body image in individuals interpret their body size as both small and weak even though they may look normal or even be highly muscular. But could it be classed as an addiction to body image?

Ten Surprising Facts about Brooding

By Guy Winch Ph.D. on February 15, 2015 in The Squeaky Wheel
We typically try to process painful or upsetting experiences by self-reflecting and thinking about them. While it is common to replay distressing events in our minds, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to do it. Do you know the difference?

Thinking and Doing in Exposure/Response Prevention Therapy

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on February 12, 2015 in Think, Act, Be
In the third post in a series, find out what the "exposure" in exposure and response prevention is all about, and how therapists can avoid using the wrong form of exposure in treatment.

Obsessive Posting Is A Result Of Obsessive Following

By Peggy Drexler Ph.D. on February 12, 2015 in Our Gender, Ourselves
For better or worse, we're too willing to listen.

Protection Compulsion...A Case Study

By Teri Woods Ph.D. on February 11, 2015 in Compulsive!
A psychologist can't fix what they don't know about. Sometimes a patient's defenses can be so strong they thwart their own treatment. But if a therapist slips into detective mode, he/she just might find enough clues to find out what's really going on.

Anxious Parents Helped by “World’s Worst Mom”

By Darcia Narvaez Ph.D. on February 08, 2015 in Moral Landscapes
Lenore Skenazy was called a bad mother when she let her 9-year old son ride the NY subway alone. Now she hosts a TV show to help parents become more like her.

What Is Mindfulness and How Does It Work?

By Gregg Henriques on February 06, 2015 in Theory of Knowledge
Mindfulness is one of the most important developments in mental health in the past twenty years. Understand what it is and how it works.

The Surprising Psychology of BDSM

‘Fifty Shades’ piqued your curiosity? Answers to five kinky questions.

Why Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on January 29, 2015 in Think, Act, Be
The principles behind CBT aren’t new, so why is it so effective?

Adult PANDAS: Seek and Ye Shall Find

By Jory Goodman M.D. on January 24, 2015 in Attention, Please
The autoimmune disorder PANDAS is common in adults. Unfortunately it is not diagnosed because it is not looked for. Psychiatrists in particular, and all physicians need to learn the key features that will lead to the diagnosis. Patients need to know as well and push for proper evaluation and treatment.

'You Want Me to Lick What?!'

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on January 22, 2015 in Think, Act, Be
OCD therapists have been accused of being extreme. When are extreme measures called for? Where should we draw the line? And does exposure therapy really involve licking toilet seats?

iPhone Separation Anxiety

Are you suffering from iPhone Separation Anxiety?

Seven Ways Therapists Can Mess Up the Best OCD Treatment

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on January 17, 2015 in Think, Act, Be
Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is the treatment of choice for OCD. Learn about the common mistakes in ERP that can make it less effective, and how to avoid them. This entry is the first in a series.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on January 14, 2015 in Think, Act, Be
A new blog on PsychologyToday.com will present the latest findings on cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness-based therapy.

Does Technology "Crack" You Up? Maybe.

By Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A. on January 07, 2015 in Just Listen
The thrill of an adrenaline rush is only exceeded by the dread of an adrenaline crash.

Psy-feld: Why There’s Plenty Wrong with That

By Rachel Pruchno Ph.D. on January 07, 2015 in All in the Family
Watching Seinfeld with an eye toward learning about psychological disorders minimizes the serious nature of these disorders and perpetuates stigma about mental illnesses.

How to Stop Worrying and Get on With Your Life

By Noam Shpancer Ph.D. on January 02, 2015 in Insight Therapy
The solution to the problem of excessive worry is in asking the right questions.

Go the F**k to Sleep [Without Your Technology]

Sleeping with your smartphone is a bad idea

5 Right Ways to Think About Living With Autism

By Stephen Borgman on December 28, 2014 in Spectrum Solutions
It's time to rethink autism advice by asking those who know: adults with autism/Aspergers. Here are 5 tips for living for autism: from those who know.

The Ketamine Challenge

By Jeffrey Lieberman M.D. on December 21, 2014 in Shrink Speak
Ketamine treatment of mental disorders offers great hope and therapeutic potential for many patients with mental disorders. However, the groundswell of enthusiasm and desire by patients and doctors for new treatments may be expanding its use prematurely and ahead of our scientific understanding of its use.

How Mad was Hitler?

By Stephen A Diamond Ph.D. on December 20, 2014 in Evil Deeds
What do we really know about Hitler's personality? Today, in a troubled world of political and religious leaders like the late Osama bin Laden, messianic ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and enigmatic North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, it is more important than ever to understand the underlying psychology of such dangerous individuals.

Medicating When It Is Not Needed

By Richard Taite on December 11, 2014 in Ending Addiction for Good
Sadly, many of the brightest, most creative children are misdiagnosed with behavioral and emotional disorders such as ADHD, Oppositional-Defiant Disorder, Bipolar Disorder or OCD. As a result, many often receive medication needlessly along with inappropriate and ineffective counseling.

Recent Updates in Proper Screening for ADHD

New research shows that all non-psychotic adults in the outpatient setting should be screened for AD/HD.

From Self to Selfie

By Susan Scheftel Ph.D. on November 28, 2014 in Evolving Minds
We do not always know where our smart machines leave off and we begin. The author describes "influencing machine" delusions which closely resemble some of our current technological realities. There are subtle risks in the ways smart machines may be restructuring the development of small childrens' minds.

Do You Worry Too Much?

Are you a natural worrier or do you have an anxiety disorder? Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

Seinfeld Recants Autism Diagnosis

By Amy S.F. Lutz on November 24, 2014 in Inspectrum
Although Jerry Seinfeld recanted his autism diagnosis last week, the use of autism and other disorders as slang for various personality traits is ongoing and has a significant impact on those who truly suffer from these conditions. If we can't get society to change, maybe it's time to change the names?

PeRfEcTLy Postpartum

The sooner to begin to accept that there are things you cannot change or control, you sooner you will feel free to successfully navigate this unpredictable course of motherhood.

OCB: Do You Have Achiever's Disease?

By Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A. on November 17, 2014 in Just Listen
We all know of people who are as difficult and exasperating as they are talented and successful. We also realized that many of us aspire to be like them. And it’s not only because they seem so powerful and important as that they seem to be personally immune to such adversity.