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About Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Most people at one time or another experience obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors. OCD occurs when an individual experiences obsessions and compulsions for more than an hour each day in a way that interferes with his or her daily productive activities.


Obsessions are intrusive, irrational thoughts --unwanted ideas or impulses that repeatedly come up in a person's mind. On one level, those affected know these obsessive thoughts are irrational, but on another level, they may fear these thoughts might be true. Trying to avoid such thoughts may create great anxiety.

OCD will not go away by itself, so it is important to seek treatment. Several studies suggest that medication and behavior therapy are equally effective in alleviating symptoms of OCD. Approximately half of the individuals with this disorder improve substantially with behavior therapy, such as ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention). Medication can regulate serotonin, reducing obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Most people treated with effective medications find their symptoms reduced approximately 40-50%.

Based on US data, 2% of the population, or nearly one in 40 people, will be affected by OCD at some point in his or her life. The disorder is two to three times more common than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. If you have OCD, there is a 25% chance that one of your immediate family members may exhibit symptoms of OCD.

Other anxiety disorders include: Panic, Separation, Phobias, Generalized, PTSD and Social


Compulsions are repetitive rituals such as handwashing, counting, checking, hoarding, or arranging. An individual repeats these actions, perhaps feeling momentary relief, but without feeling total satisfaction or a sense of completion.


Scientific evidence suggests that OCD results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. There is a strong link between OCD and a brain chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps nerve cells communicate. Scientists have also observed that people with OCD have increased metabolism in the basal ganglia and the frontal lobes of the brain. This, scientists believe, causes repetitive movements, rigid thinking, and lack of spontaneity. People with OCD often have high levels of the hormone vasopressin. In addition, people whose brains are injured sometimes develop OCD.

Find Out More

●     NAMI.org Resources

●     NAMI.org Living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Community

●     NAMI.org Living with Anxiety Disorders Community