What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

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Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) affects millions of people worldwide from all walks of life. People with OCD experience unwanted intrusive thoughts, obsessions and compulsions that can lead to uncontrolled, physical and mental, repetitive behaviors. While the behaviors - some of which are visible actions and others are mental images, urges or thoughts - may temporarily relieve the person's anxiety or distress, the disorder is chronic and the cycle repeats itself. OCD can be debilitating and disrupt daily aspects of one's life and functioning.

The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) provides statistics and useful information on OCD, which can start any time from preschool to adulthood. Often, children and teens with the disorder, unlike adults, may not recognize that their obsessions and compulsions are excessive. According to the IOCDF:

  • Approximately 2% of the global population suffers from OCD
  • In the United States, OCD affects about 2.2 million adults
  • About 1 in 100 adults in the US have OCD
  • About 1 in 200 children and teens in the US suffer from the disorder

Many people with OCD recognize that their obsessions and compulsions are not rational, but they still feel a strong need to perform the repetitive behavior or mental compulsions. They may spend several hours every day focusing on their obsessions, performing seemingly senseless rituals.

If left untreated, OCD can interfere with a person’s normal routine, schoolwork, job, family, or social activities. Proper treatment can help sufferers regain control over the illness and feel relief from the symptoms.     


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