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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

4 min read


OCD is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. If not treated in time, OCD may progress further and can lead to secondary depression.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sowmiya D

Published At December 28, 2018
Reviewed AtApril 18, 2024


Sometimes, it happens that some individuals feel their hands are dirty and not washed properly. So, they wash their hands twice. At times, they have negative thoughts and keep thinking about it repeatedly, or they check the door lock or gas two to three times. But then, they forget about it later and move ahead.

For some people, however, this kind of thinking or behavior becomes chronic and long-lasting and often increases with time. They are then said to be suffering from an illness called obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

What Is OCD?

It is a common but debilitating disorder. It has a widespread prevalence of two to three percent in the general population. Both males and females can suffer from this illness. In this condition, the person can have recurrent, absurd, irrational, uncontrollable, anxiety-provoking thoughts or images. It usually leads to a compulsive act, and the anxiety related to thoughts and images settles with the compulsive acts.

For example, as mentioned, the person can have repeated thoughts of their hands being dirty (obsession). This can make them wash their hands repeatedly (compulsion). Otherwise, they will continue to feel anxious.

Thoughts and doubts that the door of the house is not locked properly can make them check it again and again.

Some people have a counting compulsion associated with illogical reasoning, like if one does not count till 10 before doing a certain act, or if they do not do a certain act like reading 10 times, then something bad will happen to their family members.

What Are the Symptoms of OCD?


  • Fear of contamination (dirt, germs).

  • Doubts regarding locks, gas stoves, and switches.

  • Unwanted, taboo, and forbidden thoughts involving sex or religion.

  • An excessive concern for symmetry, order, and arrangement.

  • Aggressive or fear of performing some unwanted acts.


  • Cleaning - repeatedly washing hands, clothes, utensils, bathing for long hours.

  • Repeatedly checking locks, gas stoves, and switches.

  • Sorting and arranging household items or whatever is there in the vicinity.

  • Mental compulsions like counting in mind before doing or while doing any task.

What Causes OCD?

Genetics, heredity, and stressful life events can precipitate OCD or worsen it.

In the brain, there are various chemicals that control thoughts, mood, and behavior, like serotonin. Alteration of this chemical is said to be responsible for the alteration of thoughts and compulsive behavior.

What Are the Risk Factors?

The following variables may increase the likelihood of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder:

  • Family History: Having OCD-afflicted parents or other family members can increase the likelihood of developing the illness.

  • Stressful Occurrences in Life: The likelihood of developing the disorder may rise if one has experienced traumatic or stressful experiences.

  • Mental Illnesses: Other mental health conditions like tic disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, and substance misuse may be linked to OCD.

Who Is Affected by OCD?

OCD can impact anyone. It usually manifests at the age of 19. The symptoms of OCD often start in childhood and adolescence for roughly half of individuals. OCD rarely manifests itself in people over 40.

How Does OCD Affect the Life of Patients?

  • OCD causes impairment in the quality of life of the person and family members. It impairs their ability to enjoy things in life.

  • Their academic and professional life suffers.

  • They end up wasting time in obsessions and compulsions, which create significant distress and irritability.

  • The inability to control one’s behavior and thoughts brings helplessness and hopelessness. Family members often do not understand the problem and create constant pressure on the person to control them, which, in fact, increases the stress and worsens the problem.

  • The person starts believing that it is their mistake or weakness that they cannot control their thoughts and behavior, and this can lead to depression.

Why Are OCD and OCPD Different From One Another?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) are two distinct disorders despite their similar names. A personality condition called OCPD leads to a severe obsession with control, organization, and precision. Most OCD sufferers acknowledge that their urges and obsessions are unhealthy and acknowledge that treatment for their illness requires medical attention. Most OCPD sufferers are unaware that their actions or ideas are flawed in any way.

How to Recognize the Signs?

A loved one may be suffering from OCD if:

  • They are doing things repeatedly.

  • Their concern for minor details increases suddenly.

  • They take too long to complete simple tasks.

  • They feel anxiety, distress, and irritability repeatedly in the same situation.

  • Their relationships, work, and academics are suffering.

Why Is Treatment Essential?

OCD is not a self-limiting condition. It usually progresses and worsens with time if not treated. Therefore, commencing treatment as soon as possible is crucial. Some people waste a significant amount of precious time from their career, future, and relationships and visit a psychiatrist very late, assuming the problem will settle with time, but this does not happen eventually. As the problem becomes chronic, it becomes resistant, and treatment takes time.

Treatment of OCD:

  • Medicines.

  • Exposure-response prevention therapy.

One can be started on either medicines or therapy or a combination of both.

Mild cases can be treated with exposure and response prevention therapy alone, while moderate to severe cases need to be managed with medicines as well as exposure and response prevention therapy.

What Are the Complications of OCD?

Complications resulting from obsessive-compulsive disorder comprise:

  • Spending too much time engaging in ritualistic activities.

  • Health problems include hand washing too much and developing contact dermatitis.

  • Experiencing difficulty getting to work, school, or engaging in social activities.

  • Relationship difficulties.

  • Poor standard of living.

  • Thoughts and actions associated with suicide.

Is It Possible to Prevent the Condition?

The occurrence of OCD cannot be prevented. However, with prompt treatment, one can prevent the condition from progressing and disrupting everyday activities.

How to Help a Family Member or Friend Who Has This Illness?

  • Support them by taking them to a mental health professional.

  • Do not force them to control themselves. Instead, one can try to understand their problem.

  • Accompany them or check if they are consulting their doctor regularly.

  • If they are on medicines, look for compliance.


A mental ailment known as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by unmanageable thought and behavior patterns. One could feel compelled to act in a certain way—mentally or physically—to get rid of unwelcome thoughts. Even though there is no cure for OCD, many people can deal with the condition with therapy, drugs, or both.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Four Different Types of OCD?

OCD can be manifested in four different ways: contamination, doubt, arranging, and intrusive thoughts. An obsession that revolves around contamination and germs is the most common type of OCD.


How Does an OCD Person Behave?

OCD person will keep doubting and checking things. They require all things to be orderly and symmetrical. They may become aggressive and may think about harming others.


What Are the Five Main Symptoms of OCD?

- Washing hands frequently and cleaning.
- Check for locked doors or if the gas is off.
- Arranging things in an orderly manner.
- Hoarding behavior.
- Repetitive thoughts in their head.


What Causes Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Stress or anxiety from a stressful incident, such as a car accident or starting a new business venture, could exacerbate OCD or worsen it. Pregnancy or post-partum depression can also cause OCD.


Can OCD Be Treated?

OCD management may not result in completely treating the disease. Still, it can alleviate the symptoms to help the affected individual lead a normal day-to-day life. Some people may require long-term intensive treatment for severe OCD symptoms.


When Does OCD Become Serious?

The symptoms of OCD, including compulsions and obsessions, generally worsen in terms of extreme stress situations. OCD is a lifelong disorder with mild to severe symptoms and can become disabling if left untreated.


How to Diagnose OCD?

Doctors usually test for OCD by talking to the patient about his symptoms to determine his obsessive and compulsive behaviors. The doctor will then evaluate whether those thoughts and behaviors interfere with his day-to-day functioning.


At What Age Is OCD Usually Diagnosed?

OCD usually starts before the age of 25 and often in young childhood or adolescence. Studies show that the mean age of onset is earlier in males than in females.


Can a Person Suffering From OCD Lead a Normal Life?

If a person is suffering from OCD, he can definitely lead a normal and well-productive life. Successfully managing OCD symptoms requires consciously focusing on coping with day-to-day activities rather than an ultimate treatment.


Is OCD Hereditary or Learned?

The exact etiology of OCD is not completely known. The genetic pattern of OCD is not clear. However, the risk of acquiring this disorder is greater for first-degree family relatives of affected individuals. Therefore, genetics, brain dysfunction, and the surrounding environment are thought to play a key role in the development of the disease.


Can OCD Lead To Brain Damage?

OCD fundamentally alters the brain, significantly reducing the grey matter density in a few areas. In severe cases of OCD, the brain can be damaged permanently, altering the brain activity.
Dr. Vandana Patidar
Dr. Vandana Patidar



obsessive compulsive disorder
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