How Common Is OCD?
OCD afflicts about 3.3 million adults and about 1 million children and adolescents in the U.S. The disorder usually first appears in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. It occurs about equally in men and women and affects people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds.
How Is OCD Diagnosed?
There is no lab test to diagnose OCD. The doctor bases his or her diagnosis on an assessment of the patient's symptoms, including how much time the person spends performing his or her ritual behaviors.
How Is OCD Treated?
OCD will not go away by itself, so it is important to seek treatment. The most effective approach to treating OCD combines medications with cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to teach people with OCD to confront their fears and reduce anxiety without performing the ritual behaviors (called exposure therapy or exposure and response prevention therapy). Therapy also focuses on reducing the exaggerated or catastrophic thinking that often occurs in people with OCD.
- Medication therapy: Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants like Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft may be helpful in treating OCD. Older drugs -- tricyclic antidepressants like Anafranil -- might also be used.
In severe cases of OCD and in people who do not respond to medical and behavioral therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or psychosurgery may be used to treat the disorder. During ECT, electrodes are attached to the patient's head and a series of electric shocks are delivered to the brain, which induce seizures. The seizures cause the release of neurotransmitters in the brain.
What Is the Outlook for People With OCD?
In most cases, OCD can be successfully treated with medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, or both. With ongoing treatment, most people can achieve long-term relief from symptoms and return to normal or near-normal functioning.
Can OCD Be Prevented?
OCD cannot be prevented. However, early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the time a person spends suffering from the condition.