Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a chronic psychological condition in which a person becomes troubled by exaggerated worries or concerns (obsessions) that he or she attempts, with little success, to resolve through certain behavioral routines (compulsions). There is a ritualistic character to OCD, in which sufferers repeat over and over the same pattern of thought and action, to the point of interference with their lives. OCD is somewhat common, affecting about two percent of the population. Symptoms can vary by individual but treatment options are available, especially in severe cases.

OCD should be taken seriously; it can put a strain on your relationships and make daily living difficult or unpleasant. If you or a loved one is demonstrating obsessive-compulsive behavior, the health-care experts at Baptist Health may be able to help.


OCD symptoms are apparent both in what you think and how you behave, which often first appear during adolescent or young-adult years but have a tendency to grow stronger and more debilitating over time. Obsessions are uncontrolled thoughts or images whose repeated intrusion in your mind is a source of anxiety. Obsessive thoughts often fixate on certain fears or concerns, such as germs, messiness, self-harm, or forbidden sexual or religious behaviors. Symptoms of obsession might include:

  • Fear of contamination by objects, such as bathroom faucets, or by people, from hugging or shaking hands
  • Worrying whether doors or windows are locked and stoves or electrical devices are turned off
  • Feelings of panic at the sight of clutter or disorder
  • Thoughts of violence directed at yourself or others
  • Unwanted sexual images in the mind
  • Imagined scenarios of antisocial behavior, such as screaming obscenities or making a scene in a public place.


Scientists are uncertain as to what causes OCD. There are several possibilities:

  • Genetics: Some aspects of OCD may be heritable. Research is ongoing.
  • Biology: Changes in brain chemistry or function may play a role in the development of OCD.
  • Environmental factors: There may also be environmental triggers for OCD, including certain diseases or infections.

Potential risk factors for OCD include the presence of other psychological disorders, such as depression, and living through traumatic events or extended periods of stress. If other members of your family are diagnosed with OCD, it may increase your chances of developing it too.

OCD Tests & Diagnosis

Because OCD shares symptoms with other psychological disorders, your physician or mental-health provider may find diagnosing this condition complicated and may recommend various OCD tests. Here are some steps he or she is likely to take:

  • Physical exam: An exam is important as a means of ruling out an underlying physical or medical cause for your condition.
  • Family medical history: Because of the prevalence of anxiety and other mental-health disorders in some families, your physician will want to know your medical history.
  • Lab work: Blood tests and other forms of lab work can help pinpoint certain endocrinological conditions that might be contributing to your condition.
  • Psychological evaluation: Your physician will want to discuss and document your thoughts, feelings, and patterns of behavior. He or she will use this information, in conjunction with the criteria published by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, to make a diagnosis.

How Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Treated?

The primary means of treating obsessive-compulsive disorders are therapy and prescription medications.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavior therapy is a form psychotherapy that has proven successful in addressing persons with OCD and OCD tendencies. A common strategy is called exposure and response prevention, which involves gradually introducing the patient to the source of his or her anxiety – dirt, for example – while training that individual in healthy coping responses. Persons who apply what they learn in exposure-and-response programs typically experience lower levels of anxiety and an improved ability to conduct their daily lives.


Antidepressants and other psychotic medications are sometimes used to control the symptoms of OCD. 

There are also things you can do on your own to manage your condition. Take medications as directed, join a support group, learn stress-relief techniques, and practice what you pick up in therapy sessions to control and diminish symptoms.

Next Steps with MyChart

Discover MyChart, a free patient portal that combines your Baptist Health medical records into one location. Schedule appointments, review lab results, financials, and more! If you have questions, give us a call.