Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by recurrent thoughts known as "obsessions" and ritualistic behaviors or "compulsions" that are distressing and difficult to control. People with OCD often recognize that obsessions and compulsions do not make sense, but are unable to stop them from happening. Obsessions and compulsions may take hours out of each day, and are usually associated with marked anxiety. Recent research has shown OCD to be a common psychiatric disease, occurring in approximately 1 of every 30 people. Because OCD usually has its onset in childhood, it can lead to a lifetime of disability if left untreated.

While OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder, it commonly occurs with depression. Of the approximately 6 million Americans with OCD, up to 70% will experience depression at some point during their lifetimes. Whether the burden of having OCD predisposes to depression, or whether the disorders share common neurobiologic factors is unclear at this time. Fortunately, the best known treatments for OCD-serotonin reuptake inhibitors and cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) - are also often effective in treating depression.


Stop Obsessing! How to Overcome Your Obsessions and Compulsions (Foa EB and Wilson R: New York, Bantam, 2001) is a useful self-help book for persons with OCD.

Adapted with permission from the University of Michigan Depression Center Web site.