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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).
Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is more common than was once thought. Most people who develop it show symptoms by age 30.

There are several theories about the cause of OCD, but none have been confirmed. Some reports have linked OCD to head injury and infections. Several studies have shown that there are brain abnormalities in patients with OCD, but more research is needed.

About 20% of people with OCD have tics, which suggests the condition may be related to Tourette syndrome. However, this link is not clear.


  • Obsessions or compulsions that are not due to medical illness or drug use
  • Obsessions or compulsions that cause major distress or interfere with everyday life

There are many types of obsessions and compulsions. Examples include:

  • Checking and rechecking actions (such as turning out the lights and locking the door)
  • Excessive counting
  • Excessive fear of germs
  • The compulsion to repeatedly wash the hands to ward off infection

The person usually recognizes that the behavior is excessive or unreasonable.


OCD is treated using medications and therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be the most effective type of psychotherapy for this disorder. The patient is exposed many times to a situation that triggers the obsessive thoughts, and learns gradually to tolerate the anxiety and resist the urge to perform the compulsion. Medication and CBT together are considered to be better than either treatment alone at reducing symptoms.

OCD is a long-term (chronic) illness with periods of severe symptoms followed by times of improvement. However, a completely symptom-free period is unusual. Most people improve with treatment.

From Pub Med Health, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Full Article

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Resources

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Screening Test: This self-test offered by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America can help you determine whether you have symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Foundation: Non-profit organization whose mission is to advocated for, and provide information, support, and resources to, people with OCD, their families, and professionals who work with them.
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Information and resources about anxiety and depression, and related issues such as obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phobias.
  Created Fall 2012 by SRJC Web Development Team