From the National Institution of Mental Health Everyone double checks things sometimes. For
example, you might double check to make sure the stove or iron is
turned off before leaving the house. But people with
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) feel the need to check things
repeatedly, or have certain thoughts or perform routines and rituals
over and over. The thoughts and rituals associated with OCD cause
distress and get in the way of daily life.
The frequent upsetting thoughts are called obsessions.
To try to control them, a person will feel an overwhelming urge to
repeat certain rituals or behaviors called compulsions. People with OCD
can't control these obsessions and compulsions. Most of the time, the
rituals end up controlling them.
For example, if people are obsessed with germs or dirt, they may develop a compulsion to wash
their hands over and over again. If they develop an obsession with
intruders, they may lock and relock their doors many times before going
to bed. Being afraid of social embarrassment may prompt people with OCD
to comb their hair compulsively in front of a mirror-sometimes they get
“caught” in the mirror and can’t move away from it. Performing such
rituals is not pleasurable. At best, it produces temporary relief from
the anxiety created by obsessive thoughts.
Other common rituals are a need to repeatedly check things, touch things (especially in a particular
sequence), or count things. Some common obsessions include having
frequent thoughts of violence and harming loved ones, persistently
thinking about performing sexual acts the person dislikes, or having
thoughts that are prohibited by religious beliefs. People with OCD may
also be preoccupied with order and symmetry, have difficulty throwing
things out (so they accumulate), or hoard unneeded items.
Healthy people also have rituals, such as checking to see if the stove is off several times before leaving
the house. The difference is that people with OCD perform their rituals
even though doing so interferes with daily life and they find the
repetition distressing. Although most adults with OCD recognize that
what they are doing is senseless, some adults and most children may not
realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary.
Statistics and Age of Onset
2.2 million American adults age 18 and older, or about 1.0 percent of
people in this age group in a given year, have OCD.
The first symptoms of OCD often begin during childhood or adolescence, however, the median age of onset is 19.
sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for sure why some people
have it while others don't. Researchers have found that several parts of
the brain are involved in fear and anxiety. By learning more about fear
and anxiety in the brain, scientists may be able to create better
treatments. Researchers are also looking for ways in which stress and
environmental factors may play a role.
People with OCD generally:
thoughts or images about many different things, such as fear of germs,
dirt, or intruders; acts of violence; hurting loved ones; sexual acts;
conflicts with religious beliefs; or being overly tidy; They do
the same rituals over and over such as washing hands, locking and
unlocking doors, counting, keeping unneeded items, or repeating the same
steps again and again; They Can't control the unwanted thoughts and behaviors; They don't get pleasure when performing the behaviors or rituals, but get brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts cause;They spend at least 1 hour a day on the thoughts and rituals, which cause distress and get in the way of daily life
Who Is At Risk?
For many people, OCD starts during childhood or the teen years. Most
people are diagnosed by about age 19. Symptoms of OCD may come and go
and be better or worse at different times.OCD affects about 2.2 million
American adults. It strikes men and women in roughly equal numbers and
usually appears in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. One-third
of adults with OCD develop symptoms as children, and research indicates
that OCD might run in families.