What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Imagine being unable to leave the house without checking the locks at least eight times. Imagine having a rigid routine for getting dressed and having to start all over if you didn’t follow the routine exactly. Imagine having to shower three times every morning because three is a lucky number. These are just a few examples of the rituals that those suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder go through each day.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are persistent thoughts that produce a lot of anxiety. Compulsions are the ritual behaviors that people feel compelled to do in an effort to control the obsessions. It is these ritual behaviors, however, that end up controlling the person.


Obsessions are persistent thoughts that produce a lot of anxiety. Compulsions are the ritual behaviors that people feel compelled to
 do in an effort to control the obsessions. 


The rituals bring temporary relief from the anxiety, and thus the person feels the need to constantly perform these behaviors again and again. Most people know that the obsessive behaviors don’t make sense and are not helpful but cannot seem to stop them. People with OCD continue to perform the rituals even though those behaviors depress them and interfere with their daily life.

Obsessions and Compulsion

The most common obsessions are repeated thoughts about contamination; repeated doubts about the safety of others; as well as violent, sexual, inappropriate, or bizarre thoughts or images.

To qualify for a diagnosis of OCD, a person can have either obsessions or compulsions or both.

Compulsions are unnecessary repetitive behaviors or mental acts like praying, counting, touching objects a certain number of times, placing items in a particular sequence, and spending excessive amounts of time making sure objects are in a subjectively acceptable location (i.e., a book shelf must be lined up perfectly). Compulsive hand washing is one of the most common compulsions.

The reason people with compulsions engage in this type of behavior is to prevent something bad from happening and/or to reduce anxiety. For example, to reduce the anxiety or fear of being contaminated by germs, people with OCD will be compelled to wash their hands repeatedly, even to the point of their skin becoming raw. Washing reduces their fear of contamination. 

Causes of OCD

OCD appears to run in families. Studies on twins and obsessive-compulsive disorder have shown that if one twin has OCD, the other twin is 20 times more likely than the general population to also have OCD.

About one in 100 adults and one in 200–500 kids and teens in the United States have OCD. One third of adults with OCD developed symptoms in childhood. There are two main age ranges when OCD usually appears: between ages 10 and 12, and between late teens and early adulthood. OCD is found in all ethnic groups and appears to affect men and women equally.

Treatment of OCD

Medication and cognitive behavioral therapy are the treatments of choice for OCD.

Excerpts from The Anxiety Solution Series, demonstrating the condition before and after treatment:

“I tended to touch things four times or eight times, which was a lucky number for me. Turning the TV on and off a certain number of times. Things that would delay what I needed to do. I couldn’t just get into bed. I had to do a whole ritual of things in order for me to feel comfortable enough to go to bed so something bad wouldn’t happen.“ V.P. of Sales

I would say 16 months ago my anxiety and OCD was a 10. After a year, most of the time my anxiety hovers between 3 and 4… I really don’t have compulsions anymore, and it’s made a big difference in my life.” — V.P. of Sales

Quiet Mind Solutions