Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Learn about OCD and how it effects those who have it.

Definition of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association defines the criteria for OCD as an "an anxiety disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations(obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively(compulsions)." (2016)

  • The disorder interferes with daily life.
  • It cannot be explained better by symptoms of other mental disorders
  • Is not the result of medications or drugs.
There aren't any sub types or a larger category that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder fits into. But there are some disorders that co-exist with OCD such as(

http://beyondocd.org/information-for-individuals/clinical-definition-of-ocd/, 2016):

Characteristic/ Symptoms of OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterized by compulsions and obsessions. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, compulsions are defined as "repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought."(2012) And obsessions are "repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety."(2012)


  • Excessive cleaning/ hand washing
  • Precise arrangement of objects
  • Repetitive counting
  • Constantly checking things.(ex: Check if the door is unlocked multiple times.)


  • Germophobia
  • Aggression towards oneself or others
  • Needing order


While the exact cause of OCD is unknown, some researchers believe that it can be caused by biology, genetics, and environmental reasoning.

Biology: Areas of the brain aren't responding to serotonin which is used to communicate between nerve cells.

Genetics: People with relatives who have OCD have a higher risk for the disorder.

Environment: People that have been in abusive or traumatic environments also have a higher risk for OCD.

(National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2016)

Drug Treatments

The most common drugs used to treat OCD are antidepressants and anxiolytics. Antidepressants are used to correct serotonin and norepinephrine. They can block the serotonin and norepinephrine to the brain causing there to be an increase letting the nerve cells communicate better.

As with anxiolytics, there becomes an increase in GABA causing a calming effect on the body through the slowing of brain activity.

(https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/exposure-and-response-prevention-erp-therapy-for-obsessive-compulsive-and-related-disorders/ ,2014)

Therapy Treatments

Therapies used to treat the disorder are Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Exposure and Response Therapy. ( https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/exposure-and-response-prevention-erp-therapy-for-obsessive-compulsive-and-related-disorders/ ,2014)

Prevalence of Disorder

OCD is a disorder effecting both children and adults all over the world. It impacts both men and women and usually effects millions of people worldwide between the ages of 15-44.(National Institute of Mental Illness, 2012)
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JK's Case Study

In a 1990 case study from the British Journal of General Practice, a women, JK, was a teacher who had the disorder for about six years. She explains that is started because she had overworried about a comment she made about one of her students to her husband. She thought that because the parents were sitting near her that they had heard and she believed she was going to lose her job and ever since that incident she had been overly cautious with her speech, only speaking indoors with the windows closed. She began to obsess over cleanliness and she became afraid of everything. She had to keep asking her husband for reassurance and it had gotten to the point that it was causing marital problems. She was so afraid of hurting someone else that when people had walked into the house she checked under their shoes for pills that she had dropped on the floor awhile ago. JK finally sought out help and was put under very specific circumstances. One of them being that she was only allowed to wash her hands 5 times a day. She had to serve patients and was afraid she had accidentally put bleach into the kettle of tea. Eventually she was also made to ear a purse she refused to touch for years because there had once been pills inside of it. The tasks were repeated multiple times and it became easier for her creating habituation. And she could go back to living a normal life. She accomplished her goal to get better through exposure therapy and things still bother her, but she has gotten much better at handling them.

(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1371281/?page=1 , 1990)