Accurate Information About OCD
Information for Media

What Is OCD?

OCD is a neurobiological anxiety disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors that significantly interfere with daily life.

What OCD Isn’t

Obsessions are unwanted, recurring, and disturbing thoughts or urges that a person cannot suppress and which cause overwhelming anxiety and doubt. Compulsions are repetitive, ritualized behaviors or thoughts that a person feels driven to perform to alleviate the anxiety of the obsessions. People with OCD know their obsessions and compulsions are excessive or irrational, yet they have little or no control over them. And unfortunately, any relief that the compulsive actions provide is only temporary, causing the sufferer to repeat them. This only reinforces the original obsession, and it becomes a cycle that is difficult for an OCD sufferer to break without professional help.

OCD is diagnosed when obsessions and compulsions

  • Consume excessive amounts of time (an hour or more each day)
  • Cause significant distress
  • Interfere with daily functioning at work or school, or with social activities, family relationships and/or normal routines.

A person who does not have OCD can filter out recurring thoughts, such as a concern over germ contamination in public places.  A person who has OCD and is obsessed with germ contamination cannot stop thinking about germs.  And in fact, repeated washing not only does not relieve their anxiety—it reinforces the obsession. 

Far too often, people with OCD suffer in silence, unaware that their symptoms are caused by a biological problem. Just like with many other illnesses, such as asthma or diabetes, people with OCD can learn to manage their symptoms.  Appropriate treatment changes the brain so that it functions more normally by weakening old neurological pathways and strengthening new ones.

OCD is a chronic disorder; unfortunately, there is no cure. But fortunately, the medical profession is continuing to find ways to understand and treat OCD.  So the prognosis for people who suffer with OCD is more hopeful than ever before.

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