What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

This is a mental condition that affects people of all ages and characterized by uncontrolled and repetitive cycles of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are repetitive and distorted thoughts and urges which cause distress. Meanwhile, compulsions are repetitive behaviors or actions done by the person to alleviate the distressing feeling caused by the obsession.

How Common is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in the United States?

Several people in the United States are affected by this mental condition. It affects both the normal way of living and productivity level of any person. Here are some statistical data describing how this mental disorder has affected the people in the United States.

  • Around 2.3 percent of the general population is affected by this mental condition.
    o 1 in 40 adults.
    o 1 in 100 children.
  • Almost 2.2 million adults or 1.2 percent of the general population have this condition
    o 19 years old: Average age where OCD starts.
    o 14 years old: Around 25 percent occurrence of this disorder happens at this age.
  • This mental condition is equally occurring for both male and female
  • Two years and younger: symptoms of this mental disorder can be observed
  • There is an estimated 2.3 percent prevalence of this mental disorder among adults
  • Around 50.6 percent of adults with OCD have serious impairments
  • Among the adult population with OCD, 34.8 percent and 14.6 percent have medium-level and low-level impairment respectively.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Increasing awareness and education about this mental disorder is essential particularly for the family members and loved ones of the patient. Likewise, knowing the signs and symptoms is beneficial for the early detection of this mental disorder.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Obsession:

  • Fear of Germ Contamination: The person is hesitant to touch things unless it is already disinfected.
  • Intense Desire for Order of Things: The person feels great distress in looking at topsy turvy things or room. Consequently, the person cannot help but arrange those things in order.
  • Hostile Thoughts: When unhealthy thoughts or images intrude the mind of the patient, physical pain is inflicted either to oneself or to others.
  • Recurring Thoughts About Taboos: The person constantly thinks of unhealthy sexual desire and behavior.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Compulsion:

  • Relentless counting and tapping
  • The recurring habit of checking things. For instance, the person always checks the window if it is closed or not.
  • The habit of keeping things in a particular order and arrangement.
  • The habit of constantly washing one's hand and cleaning things

What Causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to Occur?

The cause of this mental disorder is attributed to several factors which include biological factors, behavior, environment, and genetic factors. Each factor has a specific way of contributing to the occurrence but there has been no definitive study to indicate the impact of its contribution.


This mental disorder is caused by interrupted communication pathways between the inner part and the frontal lobe of the brain. This interrupted communication system triggers the presence of abnormal concentration levels of neurochemical transmitters inside the brain. These neurochemical transmitters include serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate.


Some studies also showed positive feedback in telling that this mental disorder is inherited from family members. In a general population of people with this condition, 25 percent of it has a relative diagnosed with this mental disorder. Likewise, a study conducted between twins having this condition shows around 45 to 65 percent chance of progressing to this mental disorder. Another study shows a 27 to 47 percent chance of developing this disorder.


This mental disorder is most likely to occur during childhood (45 to 65 percent) considering it is the development stage of the brain and behavior of a person. In contrast, there is a 27 to 47 percent chance of developing this condition among adults.


PANDAS refer to Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections. Another factor contributing to the development of this disorder during childhood is the infection of the brain to a Group A streptococcal virus. Once the brain gets infected, it becomes the onset of this mental disorder.

Behavior and Environment

Learned behaviors as a coping mechanism for relieving stress from environmental situations or traumatic events during childhood is also a contributing factor for this mental disorder. These rituals or habits developed as a means of coping with the fear and stress coming from an object, situation, or traumatic experiences. If the bond between the object and the negative feeling becomes stronger, it becomes the onset of this mental disorder.

What are the Treatments and Therapies for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

For faster recovery, a combination of medication and therapy is mostly advised. The medications are intended to cure the biological aspects of the disorder while the therapy sessions aim to cure associated behavioral symptoms.


Most prescription drugs given to patients with this mental disorder aim to provide a substantial amount of serotonin in the brain. These drugs prevent the reuptake of serotonin in order to have a sufficient amount of it in the brain. Serotonins are neurochemical transmitters which carry brain signals between nerve cells.


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):


The patient with this mental disorder is exposed to various triggers. There is constant exposure to triggers until the patient gradually gains tolerance from those negative feelings.


People with OCD have specific habits or compulsions to cope with fear and anxiety from triggers. In this process, the patient is guided to gain resistance from doing one's compulsions.

  • Habit Reversal Training: This therapy includes the promotion of awareness of the patient for the occurrence of compulsions, relaxation techniques, and formulation of competing responses. The patient is made to face a mirror and observe the evident signs of compulsion. Once the patient and the therapist know those habits or tics, the next step is the formulation of a competing response. Both the patient and the therapist create a similar action to the habit or tic which is not noticeable to others. Likewise, relaxation techniques are given to patients to relieve stress, anxiety, and fear.
  • Cognitive Therapy: This intervention helps the patient create positive ways of controlling one’s obsession and compulsion. Likewise, it aims to correct the patient’s negative interpretations of things and events. The patient practices diligent rationalization and giving more realistic interpretations of daily situations in life.