What Is OCD?

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What Is OCD?

OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder wherein one experiences recurrent or unwanted thought called obsessions, and repetitive actions called compulsions.  The so-called obsessions typically create a sense of threat to those suffering from this disorder which leads them to react like they’re avoiding something.  The perceived threat may in the form of physical harm to self or others.  Repetitive actions like counting, checking, or cleaning are performed hoping that the obsessive thoughts will pass and go away.  Not performing these tasks will lead to even more anxiety.

OCD affects several million people worldwide, and at least 2.2 million adult Americans.  Males and females are affected equally, and the disorder is first noticed at childhood up to early adulthood.  Research also indicates that OCD may run in families and may be accompanied with depression or eating disorders.

The most common form of OCD involves a feeling of contamination from germs or diseases.  A perceived threat involving dirt or disease invokes a cleaning response, so the person involved engages in repetitive hand washing, wiping, and/or cleaning.  Another type of OCD involves constant checking.  Checking may be in the form of switching lights off, turning the gas stove off, or locking doors.  In this case, sufferers of OCD do these tasks over and over again because they feel an uncontrollable urge to do these things repeatedly.  Less common forms of OCD include some form of hoarding.  For this type, people are obsessed with keeping things like junk mail or other basic household items.  Others also tend to purchase certain items in excessive quantities, like owning hundreds of bags or shoes.  There are also those obsessed with keeping things in the ‘right’ order.  A need is felt to sort or place things in a particular order just to satisfy emotions.

The course of the disease varies from individual to individual.  Some symptoms may be gone over time, but may also progress to severe cases.  Usual treatment involves medication and intensive psychotherapy.  New treatments are also being researched for those unresponsive to the usual therapies.

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