Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

In contemporary culture, it is not uncommon to hear a person describing themselves as “OCD” when they have a minor compulsion—for instance, if they have to triple check if they’ve locked the door upon leaving the house, or whether the iron is turned off. But while some people may throw this term around casually, even jokingly, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a serious and oftentimes debilitating condition that is no laughing matter.

OCD is a condition in which people suffer from persistent unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or rituals (compulsions) which they find impossible to control. Many individuals have both obsessions and compulsions, but others have either one or the other. Symptoms of obsession include recurring intrusive thoughts that cause a high level of anxiety but seem impossible to ignore. These thoughts often have a theme running through them—for example, an individual may have a deep and persistent fear of dirt or germs, or an obsessive need for organization and symmetry.

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Symptoms of compulsion, on the other hand, include a drive to perform repetitive behaviors in order to reduce obsessive thoughts or to prevent a perceived danger from coming to fruition. Compulsions also have themes that unite them: individuals may repeatedly wash their hands, follow rigid daily routines, or compulsively organize their things.

Not uncommonly, a genetic test may help guide the evaluation and treatment of OCD, particularly when it is complex and treatment-resistant, as in the story of Janice.

Symptoms of OCD can vary between people and change over the course of an individual’s life—and it can be difficult at times to distinguish between perfectionism and compulsion. If it seems like your obsessive thoughts or compulsions are holding you back from living your life fully—if they regularly diminish your experiences—then it may be time to consult with a psychiatrist. Our team is ready to help.