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School of Medicine
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that usually begins in childhood or adolescence and may affect people throughout their lives, varying from mild to severely disabling. The signs and symptoms vary from person to person, but all people with OCD have either obsessions or compulsions or both.
These are recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced as intrusive and inappropriate and that cause anxiety or distress. They are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems. The person attempts to ignore or suppress the thoughts, impulses, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action. Common obsessions include:
- Repeated thoughts about contamination (e.g., becoming contaminated by shaking hands)
- Repeated doubts (e.g., wondering whether one has performed some act as having left a door unlocked)
- A need to have things in a particular order (e.g., distress when objects are disordered or asymmetrical)
- Aggressive or horrific impulses or images (e.g., physically hurt someone or to blurt out obscenities in public)
- Sexual imagery (e.g., recurrent images with sexual content)
These are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to rules that must be applied rigidly. The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, they are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or, they are clearly excessive. Common compulsions include:
- Washing and cleaning
- Requesting or demanding re-assurances
- Repeating Actions
- Ordering/Arranging (e.g., dressing in a set order or arranging things symmetrically)