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What is OCD?

Definition

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is marked by the presence of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are disruptive thoughts or images that surface on a recurring basis and are difficult to put out of your mind. Obsessions can cause a significant amount of distress, fear, discomfort or disgust.

In attempting to suppress or eliminate their obsessions, affected individuals feel compelled to perform repetitive gestures, known as compulsions. Compulsive rituals may last several hours.

Unlike compulsive gambling or sexual activity (which are disorders related to impulse control), compulsions provide no pleasure.

Some people suffer from so many compulsions that they are no longer able to leave their home, go to work or see their family and friends. They often judge themselves harshly, conceal their symptoms and isolate themselves.

Similar Conditions

The characteristics of OCD overlap with certain other disorders. The symptoms may resemble each other, but the treatment is different. These other disorders include:

· trichotillomania
· habit disorders (uncontrollable mania)
· tic disorders (involuntary verbal or motor behaviour)


Incidence

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, affects approximately 750,000 people in Canada. It is one of the most common anxiety disorders. However, OCD is often still misunderstood, underdiagnosed and undertreated.

Onset

OCD may occur at any stage of life. While it may vary in severity over time and in response to events in the affected person’s life, it is unusual for spontaneous remission to take place.

OCD can be a serious handicap to one’s professional, social and family life—but there are specialized psychological and pharmacological treatments that can reduce the symptoms.