OCD Causes, Statistics, Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is classified as an anxiety disorder. It is the intrusion of illogical, nervous, uneasy, apprehensive, fearful, or worrisome thoughts; and the compulsion of repeating behaviors intended to reduce the related anxiety. An individual suffering from OCD can be a male or female. They can also be an adult, adolescent or child. Being plagued with obsessive compulsive disorder can lead to a life monopolized by washing hands until they are raw and sore to the touch, or brushing their hair so much that it is almost all pulled out. It can also lead to being bogged down by performing certain rituals and repeating them until they are accomplished perfectly.

An example of a ritual may be getting dressed in a certain way each day with the belief that by doing so no harm comes to your parents. The male or female can become so fixated on this  irrational obsessive thought that it can and does lead to a person getting dressed three or four times until the ritual is performed correctly. Often, the individual will try to rationalize the OCD behavior, but still understands these obsessions and compulsions are irrational. They will also become depressed as they try to hide it. This in turn can lead to alcohol and substance abuse and possibly suicide. The ability to manage the obsessive compulsive disorder can be learned. Life can be lived without these obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

Statistics on OCD

OCD typically emerges against the backdrop of preexisting mental disorders. OCD begins at a later age than most (79.6%) comorbid anxiety disorders. Two exceptions are separation anxiety disorder, which tends to follow the onset of OCD (53.2%), and posttraumatic stress disorder, which often begins in the same year as OCD (20.7%) and which follows OCD (39.4%) just as often as preceding it (39.9%) [1]. Additional statistics relating to obsessive compulsive disorder include:

  • Close to half (49.2%) of 12-month OCD cases reported receiving treatment for emotional problems during the past year. Treatment rates were much higher for cases rated severe (93.0%) than moderate (25.6%) [1].
  • Using data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a subsample of 2073 respondents was assessed for lifetime OCD. More than 25% of the respondents reported experiencing obsessions or compulsions at some time in their lives [2].
  • OCD is associated with substantial comorbidity, not only with anxiety and mood disorders but also with impulse-control and substance use disorders [2].
  • OCD affects an estimated 2.2 million Americans age 18 or older. Symptoms usually begin sometime between childhood and early adulthood [3].
  • The gene in which variations occur is called SLC6A4, and the protien it makes is called serotonin transporter. Researchers looked at the gene in 295 people with OCD and 657 people without OCD, for comparison. They found that 9.3% of the people with OCD had the combination of variants in the gene, compared with only 5.9% of the people who did not have OCD [3].

Causes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

It is generally agreed that both biological and psychological factors perform a role in causing obsessive compulsive disorder, but it is unknown and debated as to the degree of influence each factor plays. Currently, studies of OCD causes are being conducted on genetic influences, brain differences and environmental contributions. Obsessive compulsive disorder has been tied to irregularities with the serotonin production in the brain, but it is not understood if OCD is a cause or effect of the abnormalities.

Signs and Symptoms of OCD

A young child can develop obsessive compulsive disorder as can an adolescent or adult. There are various signs and symptoms may be apparent and displayed by someone suffering from OCD. The severity of these warning signs may be diverse, but if these symptoms are experienced, then professional assistance should be contacted. Some of the signs include:

  • Intense fear of germs
  • Disproportionate focus on spiritual and/or ethical ideas
  • Continual counting of items or actions
  • Fear of losing a family member or friend
  • Incessant repeating of certain words, phrases or ritualistic behaviors

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Effects

Trying to live with OCD is incredibly difficult. The ability to live a normal life is taken by this mental disorder. The sufferer is constantly fighting obsessive thoughts and then gives in to performing the compulsive actions to alleviate the stress and anxiety that has been built-up. Recognizing the physical, emotional and social effects can help the individual dealing with OCD discover help sooner and circumvent the anticipated results. A few of the emotional effects include:

  • Intense fear of germs
  • Strong fear of hurting someone or his or herself
  • Incessant repetition ( certain words, phrases, rituals)
  • Obsessing on fear of loss (family member, friend, etc.)
  • A sense of hopelessness
  • Intense feeling of embarrassment
  • Depression
  • Low self-confidence
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling of loss of control
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling of dread

A few of the physical effects are:

  • Sore and raw hands due to constant washing
  • Double checking items (locks locked, lights off, toaster unplugged, etc)
  • Continuous checking in on loved ones
  • Continual counting of items or actions
  • Performing rituals over and over until completed correctly
  • Being hypervigilant about arranging items in a particular manner

Negative social consequences:

  • Individual becomes isolated
  • Substance abuse addiction can be developed
  • Avoids social situations
  • Family relationships are hurt or lost
  • Loss of career
  • Experience financial devastation

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Treatment

Managing obsessive compulsive disorder is complicated. Treatment for OCD is as unique as the person fighting it. It confines the sufferer to combating intrusive obsessive thoughts and performing compulsive actions to reduce the fret and anxiety that is created. They become a dominated to the rituals that must be performed before they can continue on to another task. The best treatment for OCD is seeking professional help from a counselor or obsessive compulsive disorder treatment center. With the correct resources and tools, most any issue can be dealt with and your life can be reclaimed.


[1]: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2797569/
[2]: http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/v15/n1/full/mp200894a.html
[3]: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2008/ocd-risk-higher-when-several-variations-in-gene-occur-together.shtml

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 30, 2018
Published on AddictionHope.com, Substance Abuse Online Help