Doctor's Notes on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by recurrent thoughts or worries that intrude on a person's normal thinking and that the sufferer knows are excessive or unwarranted and/or repetitive behaviors the sufferer often feels compelled to perform and has difficulty resisting, either done in response to obsessions or to follow rigid rules. Anxiety and panic attacks may occur if the person is not allowed to engage in the compulsive behaviors.
Symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder include compulsions such as counting, repeating words or actions (for example, checking locks or hand washing), arranging things according to rigid rules, and praying. These behaviors are done for the purpose of preventing or decreasing anxiety or preventing an unrealistic dreaded event. The symptoms of OCD can significantly interfere with the sufferer's daily routine or functioning and may result in insomnia, difficulty concentrating at work, significant stress, or lost time spent on the obsession or compulsion. Additional symptoms in children may include tantrums when the child's ability to engage in compulsions is prevented. In teenagers symptoms of OCD may involve physical complaints.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Symptoms
Examples of compulsions include counting, repeating words or actions (for example, checking locks or hand washing), arranging things according to rigid rules, and praying. These behaviors are done for the purpose of preventing or decreasing anxiety or preventing an unrealistic dreaded event. An example of an unrealistic dreaded event is becoming ill if hands are washed less than once every half hour. The symptoms of OCD either significantly interfere with the sufferer's daily routine or functioning (for example, causing insomnia or difficulty concentrating at work), cause significant stress, or take up a lot of time.
In contrast to symptoms of OCD in adults, those in children may include a lack of insight that their obsessions or compulsions are a problem. Symptoms in children may also include tantrums when the child's ability to engage in compulsions is prevented. Symptoms of OCD in teenagers often involve physical (somatic) complaints. While the severity of OCD symptoms can change in their level of severity, the kind of symptoms tends to change little in adults compared to children and teens.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Causes
Although OCD has been found to be associated with certain infections, injuries, and brain problems in some people, it is much more commonly thought to be the result of the complex relationship between genetic or biological vulnerability and life stress.
It's natural to worry during stressful times. But some people feel tense and anxious day after day, even with little to worry about. When this lasts for 6 months or longer, it may be generalized anxiety disorder. Many people don't know they have it. So they may miss out on treatments that lead to a better, happier life.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.