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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Overview

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by the sufferer experiencing either obsessions or compulsions that occur repeatedly and persistently and interfere with their daily life. Obsessions are recurrent thoughts or worries that intrude on the person's normal thinking and that the sufferer knows are excessive or unwarranted. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors, loosely defined as habits that the sufferer feels compelled to perform and has difficulty resisting that are either done in response to obsessions or follow rigid rules. The individual with compulsions may even have anxiety to the point of having panic attacks if not allowed to engage in their compulsive behaviors.

Approximately 1%-2% of the general population will likely develop OCD at some time in their life. Those statistics seem to hold in a variety of cultures. It tends to run in families and to occur more often in women than men. On the other hand, some studies indicate that OCD may be more prevalent in boys than girls. There are many famous, accomplished people who suffer from OCD. There are thought to be a number of types of OCD:

  • washing/cleaning and checking compulsions,
  • symmetry, ordering, and arranging compulsions,
  • hoarding obsessions,
  • excessive sexual or religious thoughts,
  • obsessions in the absence of compulsions,
  • compulsions without obsessions.

Girls and women are more likely to have obsessions rather than compulsive behavior or a combination of the two types of symptoms as compared to OCD in males, who more likely suffer from isolated compulsions. The time period soon after giving birth (postpartum) carries a higher risk of developing OCD for women. Women who already suffer from avoidant or obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) are at even higher risk of developing postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder. Men may also develop postpartum OCD soon after their partners deliver.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/2/2012

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