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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Also called: OCD

Excessive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions).

Common

More than 200,000 US cases per year

  • Treatment can help, but this condition can’t be cured
  • Chronic: can last for years or be lifelong
  • Requires a medical diagnosis
  • Lab tests or imaging not required

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead to compulsive behaviors.

OCD often centers on themes such as a fear of germs or the need to arrange objects in a specific manner. Symptoms usually begin gradually and vary throughout life.

Treatment includes talk therapy, medications, or both.

Ages affected

Symptoms

Requires a medical diagnosis

OCD often centers on themes such as a fear of germs or the need to arrange objects in a specific manner. Symptoms usually begin gradually and vary throughout life.

People may experience:

Behavioral: compulsive behavior, agitation, compulsive hoarding, hypervigilance, impulsivity, meaningless repetition of own words, repetitive movements, ritualistic behavior, social isolation, or persistent repetition of words or actions
Mood: anxiety, apprehension, guilt, or panic attack
Psychological: depression, fear, or repeatedly going over thoughts
Also common: food aversion or nightmares

Treatments

Treatment consists of self care and therapy Treatment includes talk therapy, medications, or both.

Medications

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI): Eases symptoms of depressed mood and anxiety.

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, and Prozac Weekly)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva, and Paxil CR)

Anxiolytic: Relieves anxiety and tension. May promote sleep.

  • Buspirone

Antidepressant: Prevents or relieves depression and elevates mood.

  • Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)

Therapies

Support group: A forum for counseling and sharing experiences among people with a similar condition or goal, such as depression or weight loss.
Cognitive behavioral therapy: A talk therapy focused on modifying negative thoughts, behaviors, and emotional responses associated with psychological distress.
Aversion therapy: Suppressing unwanted behavior, like smoking, by associating it with a negative experience, like an electric shock.
Psychoeducation: Education about mental health that also serves to support, validate, and empower patients.
Rational emotive behavior therapy: Psychological treatment that helps people change negative, irrational thoughts and improve emotional well-being.
Exposure and response prevention: A talk therapy based on exposing feared or traumatic experiences within a safe setting in order to help reduce any associated psychological distress.
Psychotherapy: Treatment of mental or behavioral disorders through talk therapy.
Systematic desensitization: Psychological treatment that helps people overcome fears by gradually exposing them to the things they’re afraid of.
Group psychotherapy: Talk therapy where the therapist works with clients in a group instead of one-on-one.

Specialists

Clinical psychologist: Treats mental disorders primarily with talk therapy.
Psychiatrist: Treats mental disorders primarily with medications.

Consult a doctor for medical advice
Note: The information you see describes what usually happens with a medical condition, but doesn’t apply to everyone. This information isn’t medical advice, so make sure to contact a healthcare provider if you have a medical problem. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or a emergency number immediately.

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