Amy Scholten, MPH
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an
anxiety disorder. The person suffers from unwanted repetitive thoughts and behaviors. These obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are very difficult to overcome. If severe and untreated, OCD can harm the ability to function at work, school, or home.
The cause is unknown. OCD may be due to neurobiological, environmental, genetic, and psychological factors. An imbalance of serotonin (a brain chemical) may play a major role.
Factors that may increase the risk of OCD include:
If you have OCD, you may know that your thoughts and compulsions do not make sense, but you are unable to stop them.
OCD is usually diagnosed through a psychiatric assessment. OCD is diagnosed when obsessions and/or compulsions either:
Treatment reduces OCD thoughts and compulsions, but does not completely eliminate them. Common treatment approaches include a combination of medicine and therapy.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) reduce OCD symptoms by affecting serotonin levels. SSRIs include:
Clomipramine (Anafranil) is a tricyclic antidepressant drug that can also help treat symptoms.
Your doctor may try using other psychiatric medicines to help control your condition.
Behavioral therapy addresses the actions associated with OCD.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) addresses both the thought processes and the actions associated with OCD.
Examples of therapies used to treat OCD include:
There are no guidelines for preventing OCD because the cause is not known. However, early intervention may be helpful.
Anxiety Disorders Association of America
Canadian Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychological Association
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated August 16, 2012. Accessed August 28, 2012.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health website. Available at:
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml. Accessed August 28, 2012.
OCD risk higher when several variations in gene occur together. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at:
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2008/ocd-risk-higher-when-several-variations-in-gene-occur-together.shtml. Published April 7, 2008. Accessed August 28, 2012.
4/16/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Simpson HB, Foa EB, Liebowitz MR, et al. A randomized, controlled trial of cognitive-behavioral therapy for augmenting pharmacotherapy in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Am J Psychiatry.
2008;165:621-630. Epub 2008 Mar 3.
Last reviewed September 2012 by
Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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