Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder. The essential features of OCD are recurrent obsessions (thoughts) that create an awareness of alarm or threat. (e.g., "I might get AIDS from the germs on that door knob;" "Since I had the thought of killing my baby, I might be capable of doing it;" "If I don't pick up that Band-Aid someone else might get sick from it, and I would hold myself culpable;" etc.).

Obsessions take the form of either a perceived threat of physical harm to oneself or others. The overall syndrome of OCD consists of three primary branches. Within all three branches, in approximately 80% of all cases, persons performing these rituals are painfully aware that their behavior is unreasonable and irrational. To be diagnosed with OCD, a person must have obsessions or compulsions or both. Besides this, the obsessions and/or compulsions must be disabling.

History of OCD

Up until about 20 years ago, OCD was thought to be a very, very, rare disorder. I only saw two cases in my training in the mid 1980's, and neither were children. It wasn't important to find OCD anyway - little was known about it and there were no effective treatments. Over the last decade, everything has changed. We now know that OCD is one of the most common neuropsychiatric disorders. It is also one of the most treatable ones.