FAQ: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Sue Varma, MD, answers common questions about the symptoms and treatments of OCD.

FAQ: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

What is OCD?
OCD is a type of anxiety disorder where people have intrusive thoughts that are irrational or out of proportion. They often feel they must engage in some type of behavior or compulsions such as excessive hand washing, counting, checking locks. These thoughts and behaviors consume them and affect their work, home, and relationships as a result.

Who is at risk for OCD?
Having a family history or being very affected by stressful life events can trigger OCD symptoms. However, many people with OCD may not have an obvious cause or risk factor.

How can I recognize the symptoms?
OCD is far more than simply being a highly organized person. Organization tends to make people feel better, decreases their anxiety and leads to efficiency. OCD symptoms produce the opposite effect. The intrusive thoughts and behaviors can be debilitating or at the very least interfere with tasks.

What should I do if I notice symptoms in myself for someone I care about?
You or your loved one should run this by your doctor or a mental health professional. There are several treatments available including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (I'm a big believer and practitioner of this evidence-based treatment!) alone or in conjunction with medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

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