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Obsessive compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder that affects 1 in 5 Americans. Obsessive compulsive disorder affects children, adolescents and adults. Around one third to a half of adults have report a childhood diagnosis of OCD. That suggests that obsessive compulsive disorders can last for entire life span.

A person who has OCD is excessively meticulous, constantly preoccupied with thoughts that cause them to become absorbed, or fixated on one thing.  The difference between OCD sufferers and other people is the OCD sufferers use up at least an hour of their day thinking or doing these incessant tasks and they interfere with the person’s work, social life, and relationships. [Welsh, Lauren 2002 for Serendip]

Obsessive compulsive disorders are characterized by thoughts that cause uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry. Obsessive compulsive disorders, OCD, are also characterized by repetitive behaviors that are meant to reduce the anxiety also associated with OCD.

Symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorders usually include the stereotypical signs such as excessive washing or cleaning; repeated checking; extreme hoarding; preoccupation with sexual, violent or religious thoughts; being put off by certain numbers; and nervous rituals. The symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorders can be a severe hindrance. The symptoms of OCD are time consuming, alienating, and can cause intense emotional and financial distress.

Categories of OCD include obsession, compulsions or a combination of the two.

Within the three categories of OCD fall specific types of OCD anxieties:

  • Check and recheck – obsession with things not being locked and have to check them repetitively continuously.
  • Wash and rewash – obsession with germs and being dirty; compulsive with washing themselves repetitively.
  • Hoarding – obsession with the thought of things being needed at some point so they collect things and never thrown them away.
  • Ordering – obsession with the order of things, and placing things in certain locations or in order.
  • Body Dysmorphia – obsessed with their body image and thing a part of their body is deformed or not right.
  • General OCD behaviors: excessive washing, repeating, checking, touching, counting, ordering/arranging, hoarding, or praying.

Those who have obsessive compulsive disorders can appear paranoid or even psychotic. Most of the times those who suffer from OCD recognize their obsessions and know they are irrational. This usually makes their obsessive compulsive disorders worse.

The obsession of OCD

Obsessive compulsive disorders are defined by two main characteristics, obsession and compulsions.

The obsession of someone with OCD is defined as thoughts that keep occurring and persist despite the efforts to ignore them or confront them in some way. People with OCD perform certain tasks such as cleaning to seek relief from the obsession anxiety.

A vague obsession that someone with OCD has could involve some sense of disarray or tension accompanied by the thought or belief that life cannot resume as normal while the imbalance or disarray remains.

Intense obsessions of someone with obsessive compulsive disorders are concerned with the possibility that someone close to them could die or is dying. They also could have the belief that someone or something other than them is trying to harm them.

Obsessions due to OCD can cause self-loathing, self-criticism and doubt. That’s because obsession can come in the form of sexual obsessions, hoarding etc.

The compulsion of OCD 

Some people with OCD act out on compulsive rituals because they feel they have to. Other people with obsessive compulsive disorders act on their compulsions because of the anxiety that stems from certain obsessive thoughts.

Some common compulsions are counting things (footsteps), taking repetitive actions, clearing their throats, making sure items are in a straight line, repeatedly checking on their parked car etc.

People with obsessive compulsive disorders rely on their compulsions as an escape to their obsessive thoughts. They are aware that the relief from their obsession through their compulsion is only temporary. These compulsions take up hours of a person’s time and can cause them to have high levels of stress and anxiety. It can be hard for someone with OCD to fulfill their work, family, or social roles.

OCD and the brain

Obsessive compulsive disorders have been linked to some kind of abnormality in the levels of seratonin in the brain. Low levels of seratonin increase OCD symptoms while high concentrations of serotonin are linked to successful communication between the parts of the brain that control motor functions like the prefrontal area and basal ganglia.  An overly sensitive amygdala, the small portion of the brain stem that responds to emergency circumstances, is also thought to play a large role in OCD patients.

OCD Therapies

There are treatment options for OCD such as drugs that act as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), cognitive behavioral therapy, and cognitive therapy.


If you or someone you know needs treatment for substance abuse and/or obsessesive compulsive disorder, call us at 800-951-6135 or visit us online at

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