Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that affects 2-3% of the population, making
it the fourth most common psychiatric disorder in the United States. The essential characteristics of
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are recurrent obsessions or compulsions that are severe enough to
cause significant impairment with a person's normal routine or occur for more than I hour per day.
Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses or images that are experienced as
intrusive, inappropriate, and cause marked anxiety or distress. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or
mental acts that are intended to prevent or reduce distressfrom a dreaded event or situation.
- Common obsessions include:
- Fears of contamination.
- Fears of hurting or killing someone.
- Fears of forgetting to do something.
- Fears of doing something embarrassing or immoral.
Common compulsions or rituals include:
- Excessive washing or cleaning.
- Repeating actions.
- Hoarding or saving items.
- Putting things in a set pattern.
OCD is a relatively common problem. It has been estimated by recent community studies that there is a
lifetime prevalence rate of 2.5% of the general population that meet the diagnostic criteria for this
disorder. The majority of individuals who do not seek treatment experience a waxing and waning
chronic course that may be exacerbated by stress. Recent research has demonstrated that 90% of the
general population have thoughts similar to those experienced by individuals with OCD. The major
difference is that those people with OCD are more distressed by these thoughts. Because of this
distress, individuals with OCD develop elaborate strategies to avoid these thoughts. These strategies
are generally ineffective and therefore individuals often turn to other methods to reduce anxiety
such as performing some action. While this may temporarily relieve anxiety, in most cases rituals are
performed because of the belief and prediction that if the person does not engage in the ritual some
dire consequence will occur or they will not be able to tolerate the anxiety they anticipate