Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Also known as OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that involves experiencing recurring thoughts (obsessions) that may then lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions). An estimated 2.3% of U.S. adults experience OCD at some point in their lives and the condition tends to be more common in women than in men.

These obsessions and compulsions can take up a great deal of time, interfere with a person's ability to function in their daily life, and create significant distress. While the exact causes are not known, genetic, biological, and stress-related factors may play a role. Effective treatments are available and include medications and psychotherapy techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes OCD?

    The exact causes of OCD are not completely understood, but a combination of factors likely play a role. Research suggests that increased activity in certain areas of the brain is linked to a higher risk for OCD. Environmental factors including sudden life changes, relationship troubles, abuse, illness, and stress may also contribute to the onset of the condition.

  • How is OCD treated?

    OCD is typically treated with medication and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy may focus on changing the underlying thoughts that contribute to the disorder (through cognitive behavioral therapy), or exposing people to things they fear in order to gradually reduce the response (through exposure and response prevention therapy).

  • Is OCD genetic?

    Research suggests that genetics may cause people to have a predisposition to OCD, but that does not mean that there is an "OCD gene." Instead, certain groups of genes may increase vulnerability. While a person might have a genetic predisposition to OCD, it is the interaction of these genes and environmental variables that likely triggers the onset of the condition.

  • Is OCD considered an anxiety disorder?

    OCD shares similarities with some anxiety disorders, but there are important distinctions between the types of disorders. In the earlier version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), OCD was classed with anxiety disorders. In the 2013 publication of the DSM-5, OCD was separated into its own unique category called "Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders."

  • What are the types of OCD?

    While the DSM-5 does not list specific subtypes, research suggests that OCD can present in a few different forms that are distinguished by the type of symptoms involved. Common types of OCD include those that are centered on hoarding, ordering/symmetry, contamination/cleaning, checking, and obsessive thoughts without compulsions.

Key Terms

Repetitive Behaviors or Compulsions Are a Symptom of OCD
Obsessions Are More Than Everyday Worries: They Cause Major Anxiety
Common Obsessions and Compulsions in People With OCD
The Debilitating Reality of OCD Compulsions
How Your OCD Obsessions and Compulsions Can Develop Over Time
How Symptoms and Treatment Can Be Different for Early-Onset OCD
How Spatial Memory May Be Affected With OCD
10 Things You Might Not Know About OCD
Obsessive Compulsive-Disorder Overview
How a Strep Throat Infection Can Cause Gradual OCD Symptoms
How Certain Personality Traits May Influence OCD
Understanding Risk Factors for OCD
Why Genes Are Only a Piece of the OCD Puzzle
Risk Factors for Developing OCD
When Drug Use Causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
How Suppressing Obsessive Thoughts Can Make OCD Worse
Do They Know What Causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Thought-Action Fusion and OCD
What Is a Guilt Complex?
Crossing the Line Between Being a Germaphobe and OCD
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Diagnosis, Symptoms and Treatment
Thought-Action Fusion Is When Thinking Seems the Same as Doing
Why Being a Hypochondriac and Having OCD Are Not the Same Thing
How Clinical Interviews Help Diagnose Mental Illness
How to Get the Proper Diagnosis and Treatment for Your OCD
4 Things Your Therapist Should Never Recommend in OCD Treatment
Psychosurgery may be used to treat severe mental health disorders.
OCD Treatment Not Working? Explore Alternative Treatments
There Are Many Different Options Available for Treating Your OCD
Self-Help Strategies for Living With OCD
How Does Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Treat Depression?
How Having an Exposure Hierarchy Can Help Control Your OCD
Exposure Therapy for OCD: Understanding the Rationale is Key to Success
Surprising Benefits of Group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD
Is Hospitalization Necessary for Successful OCD Treatment?
Antidepressant and Antipsychotic Drugs Used to Treat OCD
Motivational Interviewing May Help With Exposure Therapy
Could an Herbal Remedy Help Relieve Your OCD Symptoms?
Why rTMS Might Be Worth Considering If You Have OCD
OCD Can Be Treated so You Can Better Control Your Symptoms
Coping With Treatment-Resistant OCD
Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Intensive Treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
How Habit Reversal Training Can Help With Reducing Tics
Psychological Therapy for OCD
Why Combining OCD Medications May Offer Help for More People
How to Distinguish Pure O From Other Forms of OCD
What Is "Just Right" OCD and Tic-Like Compulsions?
What Is Skin Picking Disorder?
How Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders Have Similar Characteristics
Strange Obsessions After Birth Can Be Due to Postpartum OCD
What Is Trichotillomania?
Hoarding Disorder: Get the Facts
Excoriation (Skin Picking) Disorder: Get the Facts
Why Loss of Control in OCD Is Commonly Misunderstood
How Can You Cope With OCD Perfectionism?
The 5 Types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
The Impact of OCD on Your Sex Life
Can Your OCD Symptoms Lead to Suicide?
6 Ways to Cope With a Teen Who Has OCD
Page Sources
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  1. National Institute of Mental Health. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). November 2017.