What Is OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

What Is OCD? Read On To Learn How To Recognize The Signs And Symptoms So You Or A Loved One Can Get The Treatment You May Need.

What Is OCD?

Most of us have heard of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but not everyone realizes what the condition really is. Some people will joke that they have OCD because they’re particular about certain things, like cleaning or organization, but OCD is much more than being particular about things.

So, just what is OCD? Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a brain disorder stemming from problems with information processing.1

There isn’t one way that OCD manifests either, as the condition can affect anyone in varying ways. Someone with OCD often experiences repetitive, distressing thoughts or thought patterns that can lead to compulsions, which are behaviors a person engages in with the intention of mitigating the troubling thoughts. For someone with contamination OCD, this could look like having obsessive thoughts about getting sick from germ contamination, and then engaging in a compulsive behavior of repeatedly washing their hands or cleaning their living space.

OCD is not when someone is very detail-oriented or obsessed with cleaning, but instead a brain disorder that causes excessive, troubling thoughts and compulsive behavior.

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Symptoms Of OCD

Symptoms of OCD include obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior. Some people with the disorder are able to realize their obsessive and compulsive behaviors may be extreme, but understanding this doesn’t always solve the problem. Others may try to ignore their thoughts and compulsions, but this usually increases anxiety.

Common Symptoms Of OCD

If you think you may have OCD, you may experience the following symptoms of OCD thought patterns:

When someone has obsessive thoughts, it can cause a lot of distress and anxiety. To try to lessen the anxiety, people may engage in behavior that “fixes” the problem that the thoughts are focused on in order to alleviate that anxiety.

Compulsive Signs Of OCD

There are many common signs of OCD; these will be detailed below.

Excessive Showering

People who have obsessive thoughts about contamination may shower frequently to get rid of what they perceive as germs or dirt.

Cleaning Household Items Excessively

Someone with contamination OCD may clean the same surface or appliance over and over again, even after it has been thoroughly cleaned, as their obsessive thoughts tell them it is still dirty.

Checking Doors Repeatedly

Someone with “checking” OCD may have obsessive thoughts and uncertainty around safety behaviors, leading them to check that they’ve locked their door several times.

Checking The Stove Repeatedly

As with repeatedly checking for locked doors, checking the stove is an example of OCD that centers around safety and being certain that something has been done, with an inability to accept uncertainty.

“Cancelling” Or Undoing

Someone may have a distressing or disturbing thought which they then attempt to “cancel out” by thinking a different or more positive thought.

Additionally, some people with OCD may respond to obsessive thought by counting in a certain pattern, silently repeating a prayer, phrase, or word, or writing and rewriting certain phrases.

OCD behaviors are dependent on OCD types, but there is some overlap between types and behaviors. These behaviors feel reassuring in the moment, but they only serve to cement the obsessive-compulsive pattern of thinking and behaving.2

What Causes OCD? Causes And Risk Factors

What causes OCD? Unfortunately, no one knows exactly what OCD is caused by. However, there are some risk factors that can make people more susceptible to experiencing the disorder. Risk factors of OCD can include: 3

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Diagnosis

Getting an OCD diagnosis involves meeting with doctors and psychologists to discuss symptoms and being evaluated. Doctors will likely do a physical exam and blood test to rule out any physical health problems that could be causing mental health or OCD symptoms.

OCD Criteria

From there, you will likely be evaluated by a psychologist or psychiatrist, where you will discuss your symptoms, their frequency and intensity, and how they impact your daily life. There is no “OCD test” that you can take to confirm your diagnosis. Instead, a mental health professional will diagnose you with OCD if you meet the criteria for OCD outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM-V. Criteria can include:4

What is OCD

Treatment For Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

While there is no cure for OCD, many people find relief from OCD symptoms through various treatment interventions. The best treatment option for you is highly dependent on your situation, your OCD type or obsessive-compulsive behavior, and your personal preferences. Common treatments include:


Many people find cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to be very helpful in changing the thought patterns that drive OCD. Support groups for OCD can also provide support and solidarity.


For people who don’t respond well to other forms of treatment, neuromodulation is a promising option. Neuromodulation is a non-invasive treatment option that involves stimulating certain areas of the brain via electrodes.


Medications like SSRIs can improve OCD symptoms and lessen anxiety and distress. Medications approved by the FDA to treat OCD include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and paroxetine (Paxil), among others.

Intensive Outpatient And Residential Treatment Programs

For people who have severe cases of OCD, particularly those with obsessive thoughts and actions involving harming themselves or others, or for those who have tried other treatment methods without success, intensive outpatient or inpatient programs can be good options.

Getting Help For OCD At Essence Health And Wellness

Dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms can be extremely taxing, but you don’t have to keep trying to manage the condition on your own. At Essence Healthcare, our highly trained staff offers personalized treatment to give you or your loved one the tools you need to heal, making your wellness our priority.

OCD comes in many forms, from intrusive thoughts to fixations on cleanliness, and it is important that your treatment is uniquely tailored to your needs. That’s why Essence Healthcare offers a wide range of treatments and therapeutic interventions. Whether you’re looking for CBT, meditation, family systems therapy, or even telehealth treatment, our staff is committed to finding the therapy that best addresses the root of your problem and helps you recover quickly and safely.

Reach Out Today

Your healing can begin today. Don’t hesitate to contact us and get the help you or a loved one may need.

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Questions About Treatment?

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