• 01Mar

    What are the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder?

    Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) falls under the category of anxiety disorders. The disorder is found in as many as 10% of outpatients in psychiatric clinics. Among adults, the likelihood of involvement is equal in males and females. In adolescents, boys are more commonly affected than girls. The mean age of onset is about 20 years, although men have a slightly earlier age of onset. The onset of OCD can also occur in childhood or adolescence. Unmarried or single persons are more likely to be affected with OCD than the married people. Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder may depend on patient’s personality but there is a group of features that are present frequently in most patients.

    Symptoms of OCD

    A patient with OCD may have an obsession, a compulsion, or both. Obsessions are defined as recurrent and persistent thoughts, ideas or images that are experienced as intrusive and inappropriate. These include repeated doubt, impulses and sexual images. Compulsions are defined as repetitive behavior or acts whose goal is to prevent or to reduce anxiety or distress, like hand washing, checking, counting, praying, ordering and repeating words. The obsessions or compulsions are time-consuming and therefore they affect person’s normal routine, occupation, social commitments and relationships. People with OCD may be affected with other disorders. The lifetime prevalence for major depressive disorder in persons with OCD is about 67% and for social phobia, about 25%. The other less common disorders associated with OCD are alcohol use disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, eating disorders, and personality disorders.

    Diagnostic criteria for obsessive-compulsive disorder

    1. Many patients tend to hide their problems associated with OCD.

      Many patients tend to hide their problems associated with OCD.

      Either obsessions or compulsions or both are present on most days for duration of at least 2 weeks.

    2. Obsessions and compulsions present with the following characteristic features which help in the diagnosis of this  disorder:
      • They originate in the mind of the patient and are not forced upon by other people.
      • They are repetitive and unpleasant and at least one obsession or compulsion that is acknowledged as excessive or unreasonable must be present.
      • The patient tries to resist them and at least one obsession or compulsion that is unsuccessfully resisted must be present.
      • Experiencing the obsessive thought or the compulsive act is not pleasurable.
    3. The obsessions or compulsions cause distress, interfere with the patient’s social or individual functioning.
    4. The obsessions or compulsions are not the result of other mental disorders, like schizophrenia or mood disorders.

    Progression of the disorder

    The onset of the disorder is usually sudden. It is usually associated with the occurrence of a stressful event in life such as pregnancy, any sexual problem or death of a close family member. Many persons keep their symptoms secret and delay many years before coming for psychiatric consultation. The course of OCD is usually long.


    Studies have found that drug therapy, behavior therapy or a combination of both is effective in controlling symptoms in patients with OCD. The modality of treatment depends on physician’s judgement and patient’s acceptance to comply with it.

    • Drug therapy - fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, sertraline or citalopram are used for the treatment of OCD.
    • Behavior therapy - behavior therapy can be conducted in both outpatient and inpatient settings. The patient must be truly committed to improvement. The principal behavioral approaches in OCD are exposure and response prevention.
    • Psychotherapy - supportive psychotherapy has a role, especially for those patients who are able to work and make social adjustments.
    • Family therapy - it is useful in reducing marital discord and thereby supporting the family.
    • Group therapy - may be useful for patients as a support system.
    • ECT - Electro-convulsive therapy may be tried in some cases resistant to above methods.
    • Surgery - in some patients who do not respond to the above methods of treatment a surgery might be considered.

    OCD is an anxiety disorder which occurs both in children and adults. The diagnosis of this condition may get delayed as many patients tend to hide their problems and symptoms of their disorder. A sympathetic and supportive attitude of the society as well as cooperation of the patient is required to control the features of obsession and compulsion.

    Anna L.

    It’s all about health!
    I have academic background in drugs related Chemical Technology, as well as extensive professional experience in pharma and medical companies. My main area of interest is everyday life medicine. The goal of my articles is to give people informative answers to the questions that bother them, to dispel doubts and some common misbeliefs and also to inspire everyone to keep healthy lifestyle.

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