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  • Writer's pictureMed Insider

What is OCD?

By Yuan Cheng


  • The compulsive urge to repeat a specific action or obsess over a thought

  • Can be caused by genetics, trauma, etc.

  • Treatments: psychotherapy and medication


OCD, short for Obsessive-compulsive disorder, is as its name indicates—a long-term neurological illness in which a person has continuous and impulsive thoughts or actions that they want to repeat obsessively.

People from all age groups suffer from the illness; about 1% of adults and 0.5% of children in the United States have OCD. These numbers may appear small but they meant that around 4-5 children have OCD in an elementary school with an average number of students.


Nature vs Nurture

There are multiple causes of OCD, the most prominent (and more well-researched) being heredity and childhood conditions.

Those with first-degree relatives who are afflicted with OCD are more likely to develop the disorder themselves, especially during their younger years. Childhood trauma, such as abuse and neglect (emotionally and physically) can cause symptoms to worsen. It should be noted that symptom severity and trauma are more closely linked amongst individuals who experienced emotional abuse.


OCD has a variety of symptoms, seeing as the specifics often differ with each patient depending on their particular experiences. However, 3 key components of OCD remain consistent: invasive thoughts that often torment the patient over a period of time, the hysteria and stress that the patient feels as a result, and the actions that the patient thus feels compelled to or forced to repeat.

Examples of intrusive thoughts and actions include the pursuit of organization, such as the nagging need to reposition all the tin cans in the kitchen cabinet. Behaviors such as hoarding (the inability to discard useless items) and constant checking (e.g. fixating on if all doors and windows in the house are closed) are also examples of OCD’s symptoms. Mental repetition of words or thoughts, persistent demand of reassurance on a certain subject, etc., are also telltale signs. Oftentimes, compulsive behaviors are justified by those with OCD through a “just in case” mentality.


Psychotherapy is one of the better known treatments for OCD. CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), a branch of psychotherapy, effectively helps the patient address the root cause of their obsession through gentle and controlled exposure. Chatting with a therapist familiar with the disorder can also improve one’s condition and further the goal of resisting compulsive actions. Medications obtained based on the advice and prescription of an authorized doctor can also aid one in their healing journey. With specific instructions from the doctor, Anafranil, Prozac, Zoloft, etc., could be used to ameliorate OCD.


Interesting Fact

Historical cases of OCD are often found in religious literature and documentation, and considered “scrupulosity” or “melancholy.”


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