Conditions InDepth: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is an anxiety disorder. It is unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions) that keep coming back. People with OCD feel they cannot control these behaviors or thoughts. Common habits are excess hand washing, counting, hoarding, touching objects, seeking reassurance, making lists, checking, or cleaning. People with OCD are driven to do these habits in hopes of easing anxiety or anxiety-linked obsessions. However, performing these habits only give temporary relief. OCD is often a chronic, illness that will return often. It can cause problems with relationships, work or school, wellness, and day to day life. Treatment can help.

The cause of OCD is not known. Genetics, your body's makeup, events in your life, and overall psychological health may all play a role.

OCD may be linked to other disorders, such as:

  • Tourette syndrome—motor and vocal tics
  • Trichotillomania—the repeated urge to pull out scalp hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, or other body hair
  • Excoriation disorder—the obsessive urge to pick one’s skin, can result in skin wounds
  • Body dysmorphic disorder—imaginary or exaggerated defects in appearance
  • Hoarding disorder—extreme difficulty in getting rid of things which leads to excess clutter
  • Eating disorders—such as bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa
  • Hypochondriasis—deep concern for one's own health, with false belief of having a disease or diseases even though there is no medical proof
  • Substance abuse
  • Depression
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Other anxiety disorders

The first symptoms of OCD often begin during childhood, teen years, or early adulthood.



About OCD. International OCD Foundation website. Available at: Accessed January 13, 2020.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname.... Accessed January 13, 2020.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: Accessed January 13, 2020.
Last reviewed May 2020 by Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 7/29/2020

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