OCD features unwanted thoughts and fears, or obsessions. These obsessions lead to repetitive behaviors, also known as compulsions, that get in the way of daily activities.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) features a pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears known as obsessions. These obsessions lead you to do repetitive behaviors, also called compulsions. These obsessions and compulsions get in the way of daily activities and cause a lot of distress.
Ultimately, you feel driven to do compulsive acts to ease your stress. Even if you try to ignore or get rid of bothersome thoughts or urges, they keep coming back. This leads you to act based on ritual. This is the vicious cycle of OCD.
OCD often centers around certain themes, such as being overly fearful of getting contaminated by germs. To ease contamination fears, you may wash your hands over and over again until they're sore and chapped.
If you have OCD, you may be ashamed, embarrassed and frustrated about the condition. But treatment can be effective.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder usually includes both obsessions and compulsions. But it's also possible to have only obsession symptoms or only compulsion symptoms. You may or may not know that your obsessions and compulsions are beyond reason. But they take up a great deal of time, reduce your quality of life, and get in the way of your daily routines and responsibilities.
OCD obsessions are lasting and unwanted thoughts that keeping coming back or urges or images that are intrusive and cause distress or anxiety. You might try to ignore them or get rid of them by acting based on ritual. These obsessions usually intrude when you're trying to think of or do other things.
Obsessions often have themes, such as:
Examples of obsession symptoms include:
OCD compulsions are repetitive behaviors that you feel driven to do. These repetitive behaviors or mental acts are meant to reduce anxiety related to your obsessions or prevent something bad from happening. But taking part in the compulsions brings no pleasure and may offer only limited relief from anxiety.
You may make up rules or rituals to follow that help control your anxiety when you're having obsessive thoughts. These compulsions are beyond reason and often don't relate to the issue they're intended to fix.
As with obsessions, compulsions usually have themes, such as:
Examples of compulsion symptoms include:
OCD usually begins in the teen or young adult years, but it can start in childhood. Symptoms usually begin over time and tend to vary in how serious they are throughout life. The types of obsessions and compulsions you have also can change over time. Symptoms generally get worse when you are under greater stress, including times of transition and change. OCD, usually thought to be a lifelong disorder, can have mild to moderate symptoms or be so severe and time-consuming that it becomes disabling.
There's a difference between being a perfectionist — someone who needs flawless results or performance — and having OCD. OCD thoughts aren't simply excessive worries about real issues in your life or liking to have things clean or arranged in a specific way.
If your obsessions and compulsions affect your quality of life, see your doctor or mental health professional.
The cause of obsessive-compulsive disorder isn't fully understood. Main theories include:
Factors that may raise the risk of causing obsessive-compulsive disorder include:
Issues due to obsessive-compulsive disorder include:
There's no sure way to prevent obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, getting treated as soon as possible may help keep OCD from getting worse and disrupting activities and your daily routine.
Steps to help diagnose obsessive-compulsive disorder may include:
It's sometimes hard to diagnose OCD because symptoms can be like those of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia or other mental health disorders. And it's possible to have OCD and another mental health disorder. Work with your doctor so that you can get the right diagnosis and treatment.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment may not result in a cure. But it can help bring symptoms under control so that they don't rule your daily life. Depending on how serious your OCD is, you may need long-term, ongoing or more-intensive treatment.
The two main treatments for OCD are psychotherapy and medicines. Psychotherapy also is known as talk therapy. Often, a mix of both treatments is most effective.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy, is effective for many people with OCD. Exposure and response prevention (ERP), a part of CBT therapy, involves exposing you over time to a feared object or obsession, such as dirt. Then you learn ways not to do your compulsive rituals. ERP takes effort and practice, but you may enjoy a better quality of life once you learn to manage your obsessions and compulsions.
Certain psychiatric medicines can help control the obsessions and compulsions of OCD. Most commonly, antidepressants are tried first.
Antidepressants approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat OCD include:
However, your doctor may prescribe other antidepressants and psychiatric medicines.
When talking with your doctor about medicines for OCD, consider:
Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of using specific medicines.
Sometimes, psychotherapy and medicines can't control OCD symptoms. In cases that don't respond to treatment, other options may be offered:
If you're thinking about DBS or TMS, talk with your doctor to make sure you understand all the pros and cons and possible health risks.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a chronic condition, which means that it may always be part of your life. While a professional should treat OCD, you can do some things to build on your treatment plan:
Coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder can be challenging. Medicines can have unwanted side effects, and you may feel embarrassed or angry about having a condition that requires long-term treatment.
Here are some ways to help cope with OCD:
You may start by seeing your primary care team. Because obsessive-compulsive disorder often requires specialized care, you may need to see a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.
To prepare for your appointment, think about your needs and goals for treatment. Make a list of:
Questions to ask might include:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions during your appointment.
Your doctor is likely to ask you some questions, such as:
Your doctor or mental health professional will ask more questions based on your responses, symptoms and needs. Preparing for questions like these will help you make the most of your appointment time.