Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)


Obsessions are irrational thoughts, images or urges that a person has frequently and that are experienced as intrusive, inappropriate, upsetting, distressing or frightening.

Compulsions are behaviors that people use to reduce the anxiety caused by their obsessions. These activities may follow a rigid, self-imposed set of rules that the person believes will prevent bad things from happening. Whereas obsessions tend to make people more uncomfortable and anxious, compulsions reduce their anxiety and discomfort.

Although most people with OCD have both obsessions and compulsions, it is possible to have OCD with just obsessions or just compulsions.

Many people have doubts about whether they locked the door, concerns about contamination, even occasional thoughts about hurting a loved on. (n a recent study consumers were less likely to purchase a product in a store if they believed it had been touched by someone else, even if they didn’t actually see another person touch the product.) Does this mean that everyone has OCD? Not at all.
A diagnosis of OCD requires that the obsessions and compulsions lead to significant interference, that they bother the person, or that they take up at least an hour every day. One study found that 1.6% of people in the general population have symptoms meeting the official criteria of OCD. The disorder is about equally common among adult men and women, though perhaps a bit more common in women. In children, however, OCD appears to be more common in boys than in girls.

Key Features

  • Presence of obsessions: unwanted, repeated, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that cause significant anxiety. Common obsessions involve contamination, doubting, and religious, sexual, or aggressive themes.

  • Presence of compulsions: behaviors designed to reduce anxiety or prevent bad things from happening. Common compulsions include checking, washing, counting, and repeating.