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What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a fairly common disorder that many people associate with patterns and rituals, also known as obsessions and compulsions, that must be completed. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.” There are a variety of options for obsessive compulsive disorder treatment aimed to reduce OCD symptoms, depending on the type of OCD a person has. 

OCD Symptoms and Signs

Those who struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder may face challenges in school, work, and everyday life. Both obsessions and compulsions go hand in hand, but they have slightly different meanings when concerning OCD signs and symptoms. Some of the signs and symptoms (NIMH) of an obsessive-compulsive disorder include:

  • Obsessions: Repeated thoughts, urges, and mental images that cause anxiety for a person. Common obsessions include:
    • Fear of germs or uncleanliness.
    • Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts like sex, drugs, religion, harm, etc. 
    • Aggressive thoughts toward others or oneself.
    • Having their things symmetrical or in perfect order. 
  • Compulsions: Repetitive behaviors which a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder will feel the need to do in order to satisfy an obsessive thought. 
    • Compulsive cleaning and washing of the body or surfaces.
    • Ordering or arranging one’s things in a certain way.
    • Repeatedly checking things and double-checking, triple-checking, and more. This could mean checking doors, locks, the oven, social media, etc. 
    • Compulsive counting. 

More to Look For With OCD

Most people have rituals and routines they do every day. Those with obsessive-compulsive disorder will take their rituals to a whole new extreme. Some OCD rituals will become increasingly complicated, creating problems for people who are trying to get simple tasks done. According to NIMH, people with OCD will generally exhibit some of the following qualities:

  • Being unable to control thoughts and behaviors that are recognized as excessive. 
  • Spending at least one hour per day focused on these thoughts or behaviors.
  • Not getting any pleasure from performing these behaviors or rituals but may feel brief relief from the anxiety the chronic thoughts cause. 
  • Experiencing significantly difficult daily life due to these obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. 

There are other disorders related to obsessive-compulsive disorder that can be a sign of OCD due to their behavioral symptoms. According to StatPearls authors Brock and Hany, DSM-5 includes the following disorders to be in the category of obsessive-compulsive disorder: 

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD): Preoccupation with appearance. 
  • Hoarding disorder: Difficulty discarding or parting with possessions. 
  • Trichotillomania: A hair-pulling disorder. 
  • Excoriation disorder: A skin-picking disorder. 
  • Substance/medication-induced obsessive-compulsive and related disorder: Addiction and substance abuse. 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder and related disorder as the result of a medical condition
  • Unspecified and other related obsessive-compulsive disorder

Did You Know?

There is a rare type of OCD referred to as PANDAS, or pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections. This type of OCD comes from a child’s immune system overreacting illnesses like streptococcal infections, or strep throat.


For a person to be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, there are several criteria they must meet: 

  • The presence of obsession and compulsion are proven through thoughts and behaviors. 
  • The obsessions are time-consuming and cause significant stress and anxiety that could inhibit performance in everyday life and functioning. 
  • The obsessive-compulsive tendencies do not arise from the effects of a substance, alcohol, prescription medication, etc. 
  • The symptoms of a similar medical disorder do not explain these certain obsessions and compulsions. 

Obsessive thoughts will cause significant stress in a person, causing them to perform one or more rituals that relieve them of this extra stress. Due to these obsessive thoughts and compulsions, having obsessive-compulsive disorder may hinder a person’s ability to grow and function normally. This means that people with obsessive-compulsive disorder may feel social and economic impacts on their quality of life. 


Treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder varies from person to person. There are pharmacological options, with varied results, as each case of OCD is different. Some of these methods to treat OCD through medication include the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs and SRI medication. Originally these psychiatric medications were given for anxiety disorders. However, they have been approved recently as an effective treatment add-on for reducing OCD symptoms or to help manage symptoms along with therapy. 

However, even though medications can assist, the best and most effective way to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder and similar mental illness is through therapy with a licensed mental health professional. If you have severe OCD, you may have medications prescribed in addition to standard OCD treatments like therapy. The International OCD Foundation and the American Psychiatric Association both recommend psychological therapy as vital treatment options for OCD.

According to NIMH, research shows that cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has provided significant success for those with OCD. CBT focuses on identifying thoughts, talking about why they are having these thoughts, and coming up with better strategies for dealing with these thoughts. 

Another therapy, called exposure and response prevention (EX/RP) therapy, can be used to help break rituals. This therapy has been used for other mental disorders, but is most common as OCD treatment. EX/RP therapy will use the triggers of the person and expose them to these triggers, causing them to become desensitized to the triggers. This will then result in response prevention habits to help ease OCD symptoms and other related mental health symptoms. Another form of this therapy is habit reversal training, which works in a similar way to treat OCD common habits.

For example, someone who tends to stay very clean and has a fear of germs may be exposed to a germy area for a little while as a means of exposing them to their fear, helping them to rethink how they react. Seeking any kind of help for this condition can help to live a more peaceful, fulfilled lifestyle.


There is no shame in being diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and there is no need to be embarrassed by your thoughts and compulsions. OCD is common, and there is help for you. If you or a loved one struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction, as a result, give us a call. 

At RECO Intensive, we understand that obsessive-compulsive disorder is stressful and that cycle of stress and neutralized stress through compulsion is difficult to bear. 

Our professional staff and experienced alumni can help you create a treatment plan specifically catered to you and your needs. Our Florida facility offers multiple types of therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, to help you recover from OCD. 

We also treat a myriad of substance addiction types and co-occurring disorders. We want to help you succeed and live a fulfilling, exciting, and happy life. Don’t wait, call us today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get you back on track to a brighter future. 

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