Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

By Amy Fayazrad, Psy.D.


What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)? It is when a person experiences obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are intrusive and unwanted recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels they need to do in reaction to an obsessive thought.

What kind of Obsessions and/or Compulsions do people have? The content of obsessions and compulsions differ for each person. Common themes of OCD include those of cleaning (contamination obsessions and cleaning compulsions); symmetry (symmetry obsessions and repeating, ordering, and counting compulsions); forbidden or taboo thoughts (e.g., aggressive, sexual, and religious obsessions and related compulsions); and harm (e.g., fears of harm to self or others and related checking compulsions).

Who can have OCD?  OCD occurs across the world. In the United States, most people are diagnosed by about nineteen years-old, with males typically developing the disorder at an earlier age than females. Children or adolescents with OCD may be more difficult to treat. Compulsions are more easily diagnosed in children than obsessions because compulsions are observable. However, most children have both obsessions and compulsions, as do most adults.

How does a person get OCD? Although some research correlations the disorder with high anxiety, the causes are unknown.  Nonetheless, risk factors include:

  1. Childhood temperament of a greater likelihood to internalize symptoms, an amplified negative state of mind, and self-consciousness;
  2. Environmental due to any type of child abuse or other traumatic events;
  3. Biological in that people with first-degree relatives with the disorder have at a increased possibility due to genetic factors; and

Physiological because there may be some dysfunction in different areas of the brain.

How bad can OCD affect someone’s life? OCD can really impair a person’s life depending on the severity of symptoms. A person might worry about or avoid certain situations that could trigger the obsessions and compulsions, and specific symptoms could create specific obstacles. For example, obsessions about harm can make relationships with family and friends feel unsafe, so the person may avoid socializing as often.

Is there a cure for OCD? There is not a cure, but there are different methods to alleviate symptoms such as these self- help strategies of:

  1. Learning as much as possible about OCD in books, articles, and websites such as the International OCD Foundation, to better understand the disorder;
  2. Writing the obsessive thoughts and connected fears in a journal to occupy the mind with this task instead of worrying or obsessing;
  3. Identifying triggers and predicted urges before they come up to lower their intensity; and
  4. Practicing relaxation techniques to help reduce stress and worry as to not trigger the OCD symptoms.

Treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder typically consist of medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or both. If you or someone you know is struggling to cope with symptoms of OCD, please call Barnes and Klatt to schedule a therapy session at (847) 981-9200 x100.





  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th). Arlington VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  • January 2016. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Retrieved October 10, 2016 from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml.





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