Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, commonly known as OCD, is a mental disorder characterized by the presence of distressing thoughts (obsessions) and recurrent and stereotyped behaviors (compulsions) persistently over time, causing anxiety and impairment of daily life.

The obsessive-compulsive disorder is a chronic disease although the symptoms can be treated to alleviate its effects.

Although the person is aware that his obsessions are irrational, he cannot control them. Generally he/she tries to suppress them or to alleviate them through compulsions. If the patient tries not to carry out these obsessive rituals, he or she may suffer enormous anxiety and suffering.

There are several types of OCD:

  • Washers and cleaners: need to wash constantly for fear of contamination.
  • Verifiers: they obsessively inspect things to prevent a particular catastrophe from occurring.
  • Repeaters: they perform repetitive actions.
  • Computerists: things in the environment must be arranged according to certain rigid patterns, including symmetrical distributions.
  • Hoarders: need to collect insignificant objects, which the affected person cannot get rid of.
  • Mental ritualizers: repetitive thoughts or images with the aim of counteracting the anxiety provoking ideas or images that constitute the obsessions.
  • Purely obsessive and tormenting: the person experiences negative thoughts repeatedly.
  • Sexual: recurrent sexual thoughts.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms are classified into obsessions and compulsions.


  • Fear of contamination.
  • Fear of causing harm to others
  • Scrupulosity
  • Need for symmetry
  • Need to tell or confess
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  • Continuous washing
  • Repeating an action until you get it “right
  • Counting objects or up to a certain number
  • Making sure the door, water, etc., is shut properly.

Causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder or why it occurs

The exact cause of this disorder is unknown. However, there are certain factors that may influence it such as: head injuries, infections and abnormal functioning in certain areas of the brain. Genetics, i.e. family history, also plays an important role.

Can it be prevented?

It is not possible to prevent obsessive-compulsive disorder; what can be done is to stop the disease through proper diagnosis and treatment.

What is the treatment?

Treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder is a combination of pharmacological treatment and behavioral therapy. Pharmacological treatment includes antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood stabilizers. Behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective for this disorder.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a chronic illness with periods of severe symptoms followed by periods of improvement. It is unusual to have a completely symptom-free period.