Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), More Common Than You Think

Obsessive compulsive disorder is common. It affects over 2% of the population, more than 1 in 50 people. More people suffer from it than from panic disorder or from bipolar depression.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) facts

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of a number of obsessive compulsive and related disorders that has irresistible ideas or images (obsessions) and/or specific rituals/behaviors (compulsions) that may be driven by obsessions as characteristics of the illness.
  • OCD occurs in a small percentage of populations worldwide in every culture and has been described in medicine for at least the past century.
  • The average age for OCD to begin is 19 years of age, and it usually begins by the time the individual is 30 years old.
  • People with OCD are at risk for also suffering from anxiety disorders.
  • While there is no known specific cause for OCD, having other family members with the condition and an imbalance of the brain chemical serotonin are thought to increase the likelihood of OCD occurring.
  • OCD is diagnosed by the health-care professional looking for signs and symptoms of this and other emotional problems, as well as assessing for the presence for a medical condition that might be a contributing to developing the disorder.
  • OCD has been found most likely to improve when treated with a combination of behavior therapies like exposure and ritual prevention, group or individual cognitive behavioral therapy, and medications.
  • Although not thought to be as effective in treating OCD as clomipramine (Anafranil), SSRIs are the group of medications that are most often used to treat this illness since the SSRIs tend to cause fewer side effects.
  • SSRIs are thought to work by increasing the activity of serotonin in the brain.
  • When the combination of psychotherapy and SSRI treatment does not produce adequate symptom relief, a neuroleptic medication may be added to improve the treatment outcome.
  • For some people with severe OCD, deep brain stimulation can be helpful, and treatment with hallucinogen medications continues to be studied.
  • Although the symptoms of OCD may last indefinitely, the prognosis for OCD sufferers is best when the person's symptoms are milder and have been present for a short time, and the OCD sufferer has no other emotional problems.
  • If left untreated, OCD can worsen to the point that the sufferer develops physical problems, becomes unable to function, or experiences suicidal thoughts. About 1% of OCD sufferers die by suicide.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/11/2016
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