Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurring intrusive and
unwanted thoughts, images, impulses (obsessions, repetitive behavior and mental rituals) or
compulsions. People with OCD are usually aware that their symptoms are irrational and excessive, but
they find the obsessions uncontrollable and the compulsions difficult or impossible to resist.
Signs and symptoms
Common obsessions include fear of germs and dirt, fear of harm to self or others, images and concerns
with symmetry, illness or religious issues; and intrusive sexual thoughts. Common compulsions are
washing, cleaning, checking, hoarding, touching, counting and repeating routine activities and actions.
The cause of OCD is not fully understood. It may be related to chemical, structural or functional
abnormalities in the brain, as well as genetic and hereditary factors. Each person’s OCD is the result of
several interacting factors, and aggravated by stressful life events, hormonal changes and personality
Treatment includes medication, cognitive behavior therapy, community support and recovery programs.
A combination of treatments, plus a skilled and experienced clinician, support and education will
produce the best results.
Medication - Drugs can help restore the chemical balance of the brain, thus controlling
obsessions and compulsions.
Cognitive behavior therapy - A doctor, psychologist or health professional talks with the person
about OCD symptoms and discusses alternative ways of thinking and coping with them.
Community support and recovery programs - Support groups provide an environment where
people with OCD and their families can meet. Information is provided, along with self-help and
coping strategies. Understanding and acceptance by the community is very important.