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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder. People with OCD have uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and try to control them by repeating certain behaviors (compulsions).

People with OCD spend at least one hour a day (and often much more) on obsessive thoughts and/or rituals that interfere with daily life.

OCD can run in families, but its causes aren’t yet well understood. Brain biology, stress and environmental factors may all play a role.

Obessive-compulsive syndrome symptoms

Common symptoms of OCD include obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

Obsessive thoughts may include the following:

  • Fear of germs and dirt
  • Fear of intruders
  • Fear of thinking violent or sinful thoughts
  • Fear of harming a family member or friend
  • Making sure things are orderly and symmetrical

Compulsive behaviors, repeated over and over, may include the following:

  • Washing hands or showering
  • Locking and unlocking doors
  • Checking appliances to be sure they’re turned off
  • Going through a door or touching an object a certain number of times
  • Arranging items in a particular order
  • Counting to a certain number
  • Collecting and hoarding objects that you don’t need or use

How can I get help for OCD?

Talk with your primary care doctor about what you’re experiencing. If an exam shows that a physical problem isn’t causing your symptoms, he or she will likely refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for further evaluation.

OCD often begins during childhood or adolescence and can come and go at varying levels over time. If you think your child shows signs of OCD, talk to your pediatrician.

Care for OCD at Rush

  • For adults:
    • The Anxiety and Mood Disorders Program at Rush, part of the Adult Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic, has a team of experts in diagnosing and treating anxiety disorders like OCD.
  • For children:
    • The Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Program at Rush brings together a team of psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical social workers with special training in child psychiatry and family therapy. 
  • Treatment plans are customized according to your needs. For children and adults alike, OCD treatment might include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medication or a combination of the two.
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you how to change the way you think and react so you feel less anxious. One type of CBT that’s very effective against OCD is exposure and response prevention, which gradually exposes you to situations that cause anxiety and gives you tools for becoming less sensitive to them.
    • Medications that are effective against OCD include some antidepressants and some anti-anxiety medications. They may take several weeks to start working.

Why choose Rush for OCD care

  • Specialists at Rush knows that seeking treatment for something that makes you anxious isn’t always an easy step to take. They’re committed to finding the most effective approach for you while always keeping your needs and your comfort level top of mind.
  • Rush is an academic medical center with a thriving research program, so patients often have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials that evaluate innovative new treatments.

Departments and programs that treat this condition