Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic or long-term illness. Without treatment,
symptoms typically come and go over time and may significantly interfere with
your ability to work and have a family. Treatment can reduce the severity of
the illness. And although some symptoms may linger after treatment, you should
be able to have an active social life, raise a family, and work.
Anxiety is the most prominent symptom of OCD. For example, you may have
an overall sense that something terrible will happen if you don't follow
through with a particular ritual, such as repeatedly checking to see whether
the stove is on. If you don't perform the ritual, you may have immediate
anxiety or a nagging sense of incompleteness.
Your heart pounds, your palms sweat, and you begin to tremble. These physical reactions to danger put your body on high alert. But if you're gripped with fear when there is little or no real danger, like when you're on a plane taxiing down a runway to take off, the real culprit may be anxiety.
"Anxiety is a world-class bluffer. It bluffs people into thinking they're in danger when they're really not," says Martin N. Seif, PhD, a psychologist in New York City and Greenwich, Conn., who co-founded...
Symptoms of OCD
vary with each person and include the following:
Fear of dirt or germs or overconcern about
body smells/secretions or the proper functioning of the
Overconcern with order, neatness, and
Fear of thinking bad thoughts or doing something
Constantly thinking of certain sounds, words, or
numbers, or a preoccupation with counting or checking
for approval or the need to apologize
Fear that something terrible
will happen or fear of harming yourself or someone else
Frequently washing hands, showering, or
brushing teeth or overusing items to hide body
Constantly cleaning, straightening, and ordering certain
Repeatedly checking zippers and buttons on
Checking lights, appliances, or doors again and again to
be sure they are turned off or closed
Repeating certain physical
activities, such as sitting down and getting up from a
Hoarding objects, such as newspapers
same question or saying the same thing over and over
public places or taking extreme measures to prevent harm to yourself or
Religious rituals, such as constant silent praying
It is common for children with OCD to need to repeat
actions until they feel "just right," such as going back and forth through a
door, going up and down stairs, touching things with their right hand and then
their left (symmetrical touch), or rereading or rewriting school
assignments. Children with OCD may not want to go to
school or may be afraid to leave someone they trust.