Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is mental health condition characterized by a pattern of unreasonable thoughts and fears compelling an individual to repetitive behavior as a means of alleviating their anxiety. In more severe cases, these behavior patterns can interfere with day-to-day life and cause distress. OCD may be a mild or severe disorder and it usually first manifests as a teenager or young adult.
People with OCD may exhibit compulsions, obsessions or both. Obsessive symptoms include a need to keep things orderly or symmetrical, fear of contamination or dirt, thoughts of self-harm, and intense feelings of distress when faced with disorder, untidiness, or lack of cleanliness. People with OCD may seek to avoid situations that can trigger obsessions, for example not wanting to meet new people due to anxiety over shaking hands.
Compulsive symptoms usually involve repetitive behaviors that prevent or reduce the anxiety associated with obsessions. Examples of compulsions include constant washing or cleaning, checking and rechecking, obsessive counting, an obsession with order, following a strict routine, and constantly repeating a phrase or word. Symptoms of OCD often intensify when stress levels are higher.
Treatment of OCD often involves cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. Drug classes commonly used to treat OCD are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants, (SSRIs) and tricyclic and other cyclic antidepressants.