Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

By: Ally Ringeisen


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by unwanted repetitive thoughts (obsessions), actions (compulsions), or both.(1) When you have OCD you might not realize that your obsessions aren't reasonable or affect your daily life, you might attempt to try to stop them, but when you do this it might make your anxiety worse. OCD normally centers its self around a common thought for example: if you are afraid of germs you might compulsively wash or hand sanitize your hands until they are sore and dry. Because your hands are sore and dry you will try to resist yourself from compulsively washing and hand sanitizing. Thoughts of needing to wash your hands to get rid of germs will get worse. This cycle is a characteristic of OCD.(2)

Causes and Risks of OCD:

The causes of OCD are not official yet, however there are some theories on why people develop OCD.

  • OCD might have a genetic component- an issue with your genes.
  • Result of a change in your body whether its the chemistry or brain functions.
  • Infections are suggested to be the start of OCD as well.(2)
  • Inbalances of brain chemicals (serotonin) may be a cause. (3)
The risk factors of OCD are:

  • Family History- having parents or close family relatives that suffer from OCD can increase the chances of developing OCD.
  • Stressful events- if you have been a part of stressful life events or tend to react negatively towards stress your chance of getting OCD will also increase.(2)
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Prevalence of OCD:

The average age in which a person is diagnosed with OCD is 19. It is the most commonly diagnosed from childhood to mid-adulthood. See tables below for the Demographics of lifetime prevalence and the 12 month prevalence of OCD.(4) An average 1 in every 100 children are diagnosed with OCD. OCD is found in every continent. OCD is not a gender, race, social or economic class specific disorder. It can happen to anyone.
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How OCD is Diagnosed:

Many steps are taken to diagnose OCD.

  • Physical Exam- preformed to rule out problems that could be causing your symptoms.
  • Lab tests- complete blood count, drug and alcohol screening, and to check the functioning of your thyroid.
  • Psychological Evaluation- a doctor or mental health provider will talk to you about your thoughts and feelings, etc. They may also want to talk to your family and friends to gather more information.

To be diagnosed with OCD you have to have all of the following symptoms:

  • Have obsessions, compulsions, or both
  • Have significantly time consuming obsessions or compulsions that interfere with your daily routine or work.


  • Have reoccurring thoughts, actions, impulses that cause distress.
  • Try to ignore these thoughts, actions, impulses, but make up for them with compulsive actions.


  • Repetitive behavior that HAS to be preformed: such as washing your hands.
  • Efforts to neutralize your behavior with other thoughts or actions.
  • Behaviors or actions that are meant to help the problem, lessen the stress, but are irrelevant to the problem.(2)


OCD treatment doesn't always result in a cure, but most of the time it helps the anxiety and stress caused.

  • Psychotherapy- the most effective treatment- gradually exposes you to your feared object or obsession. Helps teach you ways to cope with anxiety.
  • Medications- certain psychiatric medications that help control obsessions and compulsions. Anti-depressants are normally used first. (5)

Facts about OCD:

Howie Mandel has OCD- he has a fear of germs.

David Beckham has OCD- he has to have pairs or he feels uncomfortable.

The main compulsion of people suffering from OCD is washing hands.

The main obsession that people do not want is contamination- ex: body fluids, sexually transmitted diseases, environmental contaminants, etc.


(1)-Myers, D. G. (n.d.). Exploring psychology in modules.

(2)-Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013, August 09). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Retrieved January 13, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ocd/basics/definition/con-20027827

(3)-Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)-Cause. (2014, November 14). Retrieved January 13, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/tc/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd

(4)-Fogel, J. (n.d.). An Epidemiological Perspective of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents. Retrieved January 13, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2538471/

(5)-Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved January 13, 2016, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml