What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

by Vanya Sharma last updated -

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental health condition in which those suffering have a repetitive thought pattern or behavior. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it affects nearly 2.2 million adults or 1.0% of the total U.S. population. Let’s try to understand it below.

What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that can affect a person of any age. It happens when a person is caught between repetitive cycles of thoughts and behaviors. There are mainly two parts to an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), obsessions and compulsions. While the obsessions refer to the intrusive thoughts or images that a person engages in, over and over again, leading to anxiety and extreme distress; compulsions refers to the behaviors that an individual adopts in order to, mostly, get rid of the thoughts or obsessions.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has many defining characteristics or symptoms. It can either be a mental obsession over a thought or a compulsion to do a certain action according to the Beyond OCD organization. Let’s take a look at both of them below.


  • Repeating washing hands, turning knobs, or opening and closing doors
  • Fear of contracting germs or infections
  • Aggressive or compulsive thoughts towards others or oneself
  • Obsessively keeping things symmetrical or in proper order
  • Counting compulsively

How to recognize OCD?

There are a variety of other compulsive tics or nervous habits that can signal towards this mental disorder. And sometimes these tics can be so subtle that they go unnoticed for the most part of a person’s life. In most cases, though, people suffering from this mental disorder feel extremely nervous or panicked if they don’t perform these particular activities. Certain things to notice to diagnose this order include the following:

  • Repetitive actions can often take up to an hour or more every day
  • Little to no control over thoughts and behaviors
  • Compulsive thoughts or behaviors induce negative emotions like anxiety
  • Difficulty while going through the day

The behavior or thought experienced is something that the sufferers clearly understand as being irrational, but still, their need to do so is extremely strong.

What Causes OCD?

There is no known cause for OCD, and it does occur in a wide spectrum of severity. Some connections have been seen between certain infections and the development of OCD, and a number of cases are also linked to the environment surrounding a person. Causes include the following:

  • Genetics
  • Structural functioning of the brain
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Streptococcal infection in children and more

Common treatments for OCD include behavioral therapy to correct or consciously alter the habitual actions, but this only results in success in some cases. There are many triggers of OCD, so many therapy approaches consist of exposing the patients to those triggers and forcing them to avoid performing the compulsive behavior. Other treatment approaches include the use of SSRIs, which can often result in dependence. Due to the variable nature and uncertain success rates of “traditional” therapy and treatments, many people use dietary, natural, or home remedies to alleviate the symptoms of OCD and improve their quality of life.

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About the Author

Vanya Sharma handles the medical expert collaboration for Organic Facts. A writer at heart, she joined the website while she was still pursuing her English Literature degree from IGNOU, Delhi, India. She is also responsible for the website’s monthly newsletter and website content and contributes to Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube regularly. Currently pursuing an e-course offered by Stanford University, ‘Introduction to Food and Health’, she aims to bring unbiased and helpful information to all those seeking to make their health and lifestyle a priority.  

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