What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Although most of us recognize Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as frequent hand washing, it is much more than that. Typically, a little anxiety is a good thing – it is the knowledge that keeps us from harm. For someone with OCD, the brain warns of danger, but very badly. Persistent, upsetting thoughts (obsessions) and use of rituals (compulsions) control the anxiety these thoughts produce. In turn, the rituals usually end up controlling the obsessions. Perfoming the rituals is not pleasurable, and at best, they produce temporary relief from the anxiety created by the thoughts.

For example, if someone with OCD is concerned about intruders in their home, they may lock and relock their doors many times before going to bed. While the typical person might do the same, they would be able to go to bed, content that the door was locked. An OCD sufferer might have to check the door multiple times for the next few hours to convince themselves that it was really locked. Even though the person with OCD is aware that their thoughts are irrational, they are unable to control them.

Other common rituals include the need to repeatedly check or count things, often in a certain sequence. Common obsessions include frequent thoughts of violence or being preoccupied with order and symmetry.

Who is affected?

According to the OC Foundation’s website, 1 in 40 adults and one in 200 children suffer from OCD at some point in their lives. This means that at any one time in the United States, at least 5 million people are experiencing the symptoms of OCD. It is the fourth most common neuropsychiatric illness in the country.

Links to additional information and resources:

InCrisis is the first organization to develop a comprehensive Internet-based information and screening service for parents of youth that meets the highest professional and ethical standards for development and operation. Reports are for parents and care-givers who need information, guidance and options.

Time Magazine’s very informative and interesting article – When Worry Hijacks the Brain

The National Institute of Mental Health reduces the burden of mental illness and behavioral disorders through research, on mind, brain and behavior.

NIMH also offers resources specific to OCD:
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

When Unwanted Thoughts Take Over: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
When Unwanted Thoughts Take Over

Kids Health details OCD in an article written just for kids.

The Obsessive Compulsive Foundation explains the types of OCD and where to get help.

The Center for Disease Control offers information about suicide prevention.

The Bo Tkach Memorial offers this information as a service to individuals who visit botkach.com
and does not assume liability for any reliance on the information provided.