What Exactly Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
Jan 30, 2023 By Madison Evans

Intrusive and repetitive thoughts, impulses, or feelings characterize the obsessive-compulsive disorder. Individuals are compelled to engage in a ritualized practice. A person's day-to-day life and social relationships can be severely disrupted by repetitive behaviors like hand washing/cleaning, checking on items, and mental acts such as other tasks.

Distressing thoughts or rituals are common, even among those who do not have OCD. Still, these aren't usually enough to cause major problems on an average day. Persons with OCD tend to have repetitive, intrusive thoughts and inflexible routines.

Distress is experienced when the behaviors are not carried out, typically connected to a fear of negative outcomes in the absence of the activities. Some persons with OCD may believe their obsessions are factual, while others realize or suspect their ideas are unrealistic.


Repetitive and uncontrollable mental or emotional states, such as anxiety, terror, or disgust, are obsessions. Many persons who suffer from OCD are aware that their rituals are illogical or excessive.

However, the stress brought on by these persistent ideas is not amenable to rational analysis. Most persons with OCD engage in compulsions to alleviate the anguish caused by their obsessive thoughts or to counteract the imagined dangers they face. They can also try to avoid thinking about or talking about their obsessions with others.


Repetitive actions or thoughts a person feels compelled to undertake because of an obsession are called compulsions. People are more likely to engage in these actions in the future because they have been shown to prevent or reduce the suffering associated with an obsession effectively.

Excessive hand-washing out of a fear of germs is one type of compulsion that can arise from an addiction, but compulsions can also be wholly unconnected to the fixation. In the worst circumstances, a person's day may be consumed by rituals that must be performed repeatedly, making it difficult to maintain a normal schedule.


When treating OCD effectively, patients often report better quality of life and functioning. The capacity to learn and work, form and maintain satisfying relationships, relax, and have fun may improve after receiving treatment.

Behavior and Cognitive Therapy

Exposure and response prevention is a kind of CBT that helps treat phobias. To help people overcome their obsessions, it is often necessary to show them pictures or events they fear may happen. Even though it's common practice, to begin with, for those that only result in mild or moderate symptoms, anxiousness is a common side effect of the treatment at first.

Those undergoing treatment are urged to refrain from engaging in habitual, obsessive routines. Patients discover that their fears are unfounded when they deliberately expose themselves to situations they normally avoid.

Anxiety lessens with time as people realize they don't need to rely on compulsive rituals to deal with their thoughts. It is common practice for therapists and patients to work together to create an exposure plan that progresses progressively from low-anxiety to high-anxiety settings, using evidence-based standards.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are a family of drugs normally used to treat depression, but they have also shown promise in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder.

When treating OCD, the recommended SSRI dosage is typically greater than when treating depression. If patients do not react favorably to one SSRI, they may do so with another. It may take anywhere from six weeks to a year or more before the full benefit is apparent.

Depending on the patient's desire, cognitive abilities and level of insight, the presence or absence of related mental illnesses, and therapy availability, CBT or medication may be used to treat patients with mild to moderate OCD symptoms. CBT and SSRIs are the most effective treatment for OCD, especially for those with severe symptoms.

Neurological Care

Patients who do not react to standard therapies and are severely affected may benefit greatly from gamma ventral capsulotomy, a surgical treatment. However, it is neglected due to historical prejudice and its invasiveness.

Evidence suggests that deep brain stimulation, which uses an implanted device in the brain, is effective, and unlike a capsulotomy, no brain tissue is permanently destroyed. However, there are still few physicians and hospital systems equipped to administer this therapy and able to provide the long-term support that DBS patients require. It is still very invasive and hard to maintain.

When To See A Doctor

Being a perfectionist, in the sense of someone who demands immaculate output or performance, is not the same as having an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Feelings of obsession and compulsiveness in OCD are more than just a preference for orderliness and cleanliness or a fixation on perfectionism. It's important to seek medical or mental health attention if your compulsions and obsessions interfere with your daily life.

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