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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Also called: OCD

- Summary
- About OCD
- Potential causes
- Signs and symptoms
- Diagnosis methods
- Treatment options
- Ongoing research
- Questions for your doctor

Reviewed By:
Andrea Bradford, M.D., M.M.M.
Tahir Tellioglu, M.D., APA, AAAP


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is classified as an anxiety disorder. Patients with OCD have persistent thoughts they cannot control (obsessions) and/or feel they must perform certain actions repeatedly (compulsions) in order to feel safe, to stop obsessive thoughts, or to be able to go about their daily business. When obsessions and compulsions interfere with someone’s ability to work or to live their life, it becomes identified as an illness. About 2.2 million adult Americans have OCD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

An example of OCD occurs when people who have obsessive thoughts about accidentally burning down their house repeatedly return home to make sure they have not left the stove on. Patients usually understand that their thoughts and behaviors are irrational and senseless, but cannot free themselves from them.

The exact cause of OCD is not known. However, a combination of psychological, biological and environmental factors may be responsible. Heredity is also believed to play a role in the development of the disorder.

Although there is no cure for OCD, certain treatments – such as a combination of psychotherapy and medications – can help control symptoms. A form of exposure therapy known as exposure and response prevention involves gradually exposing patients to stimuli that trigger obsessive thoughts and teaching new ways to deal with these thoughts. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) targeting obsessive and compulsive symptoms is also a proven treatment method.


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Review Date: 08-27-2007

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