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What You Need To Know About OCD

Imagine washing your hands until they bleed every day, all day. Then imagine being controlled by an overwhelming fear that if you don’t scrub off your flesh, a loved one will die. That nightmare is a reality for many with obsessive-compulsive disorder. This quick-hitting entry in the Stigma Battle mental health series will tell you what you need to know about OCD.


According to the National Institute of Mental Health, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a chronic condition where a person has uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that they feel the urge to repeat. It is estimated that 2.3% of the US population has OCD.

While researchers aren’t sure what causes OCD, they believe genetics, environment, and brain abnormalities all play a role in its development. Researchers are certain, however, that OCD is an anxiety disorder that ranges greatly in severity. Mild sufferers can lead productive lives, while those most afflicted face total disability.

The disorder affects men and women equally. The average age of OCD diagnosis is 19, though cases have developed in people as old as 35.

Common obsessive-compulsive disorder behaviors include repetitive cleaning and hand washing, checking objects—such as door locks or stoves—counting, ordering, and arranging. Hoarding, asking for reassurance, repeating words in their head, and avoidance of situations that trigger OCD are also symptoms.

OCD Prognosis and Treatment

Even in its lesser forms, OCD is a disruptive force. At its worst, obsessive-compulsive disorder can manifest as harm OCD. The center for anxiety disorders states harm OCD is a subset of classic obsessive-compulsive disorder. The condition is characterized by experiencing aggressive, intrusive thoughts of hurting someone, as well as the responses the person uses to cope with these urges. While 85% of all people experience fleeting thoughts of hurting others, for harm OCD sufferers, these ideations become overly intrusive.

Riddled by perpetual agitation, OCD patients are ten times more likely than their non-OCD counterparts to commit suicide. For that reason, obsessive-compulsive disorder requires immediate treatment. The Mayo Clinic lists self-care and therapy as common interventions for the disorder. More complex treatment methods include:

  • Aversion therapy: A.T. suppresses the unwanted behavior with a negative consequence. For instance, an electrical shock is used to condition the patient’s brain from committing an OCD act.
  • Rational emotive behavioral therapy: This therapy helps change irrational negative thoughts and improve emotional well-being.
  • Exposure and response prevention: Here patients engage in talk therapy which simulates uncomfortably scenarios for the patient within a clinical environment in order to help reduce any associated negative behaviors.
  • Systematic desensitization: A tried and true method, systemic desensitization is a treatment strategy that helps patients overcome their fears by gradually exposing them to the things they are afraid of.

In addition to these treatments, medications such as SSRIs anxiolytics, and antidepressants are prescribed to OCD patients.

Self-Care For OCD

The following personal therapy practices, according to HealthCentral, are also effective for managing obsessive-compulsive disorder. Each can be performed at home, as an adjunct to traditional treatment. 

  • Understand your anxiety and triggers
  • Exercise to re-orient your thoughts
  • Challenge the obsessive thoughts with logic
  • Journal about your experiences
  • Wean yourself off compulsive behaviors
  • Delay your compulsive rituals
  • Engage in relaxation techniques


The good news is that roughly 80% of obsessive-compulsive disorder sufferers respond well to treatment. states exposure and response therapy, along with SSRI dosing is the most effective OCD treatment. Although OCD is a chronic disorder, it is manageable. That should offer great hope to those battling its effects.

Now that you know what you need to know about OCD, check back with Stigma Battle for our continuing series on the major mental health disorders.

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