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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.