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Facts about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
is characterized by repetitive, unwanted, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and irrational, excessive urges to do certain actions (compulsions). Although people with OCD may know that their thoughts and behavior don't make sense, they are often unable to stop them.

Symptoms typically begin during childhood, the teenage years or young adulthood, although males often develop them at a younger age than females. More than 2% of the U.S. population (nearly 1 out of 40 people) will be diagnosed with OCD during their lives.

Symptoms
Most people have occasional obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors. In an obsessive-compulsive disorder, however, these symptoms generally last more than an hour each day and interfere with daily life.

Obsessions are intrusive, irrational thoughts or impulses that repeatedly occur. People with these disorders know these thoughts are irrational but are afraid that somehow they might be true. These thoughts and impulses are upsetting, and people may try to ignore or suppress them.

Examples of obsessions include:

  • Thoughts about harming or having harmed someone
  • Doubts about having done something right, like turning off the stove or locking a door
  • Unpleasant sexual images
  • Fears of saying or shouting inappropriate things in public
Compulsions are repetitive acts that temporarily relieve the stress brought on by an obsession. People with these disorders know that these rituals don't make sense but feel they must perform them to relieve the anxiety and, in some cases, to prevent something bad from happening. Like obsessions, people may try not to perform compulsive acts but feel forced to do so to relieve anxiety.

Examples of compulsions include:

  • Hand washing due to a fear of germs
  • Counting and recounting money because a person is can't be sure they added correctly
  • Checking to see if a door is locked or the stove is off
  • "Mental checking" that goes with intrusive thoughts is also a form of compulsion
NAMI is the reference for information on this page. More information about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, including diagnosis, treatment and support resources, can be found on the NAMI website:  https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Obsessive-compulsive-Disorder

If you or a family member is experiencing a mental health or an alcohol or other drug-related emergency, seek immediate assistance by calling the 24-hour Suicide Prevention, Mental Health Crisis, Information and Referral Hotline: (216) 623-6888 or the United Way's First Call for Help, 211 or (216) 436-2000.
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