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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable thoughts (obsessions) and ritualized behaviors (compulsions). Obsessions may either be senseless or frightening in nature (e.g., thoughts of germs, accidents, horrible events, or immorality), and compulsions are typically specific actions or rituals enacted to control the intrusive thoughts (e.g., excessive hand washing, checking behaviors, or specific rituals). Most often compulsions are meant to reduce the chance that something bad will happen, though sometimes they may be an attempt to make things feel "just right."

The World Health Organization has identified OCD as one of the top ten leading causes of disability worldwide. In addition to being extremely disabling, OCD is also the fourth most frequently diagnosed mental disorder. In America alone, 3.3 million individuals have been diagnosed with OCD. The prevalence of OCD is approximately equal in males and females, and the first symptoms often start in late adolescence or early adulthood. OCD typically does not appear by itself, and is often accompanied by other disorders such as major depression, other anxiety disorders, eating disorders, or substance abuse.

OCD has a number of variations or forms. Several common types of obsessions and compulsions that a person may experience revolve around the following themes:

  • Cleaning/Washing

  • Checking

  • Ordering

  • Counting

  • Other (e.g., sexual, religious)


Many individuals with OCD try to keep their disorder a secret, the result being that they suffer in silence and do not get the proper support or treatment. OCD is a chronic, often relapsing disorder, and if left untreated, it can consume an individual's life.

Research carried out over the past 30 years has aided in the development of effective treatments for OCD. Currently both medications and a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy have been proven helpful in treating OCD. Several medications, all belonging to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor family, are useful in getting symptom reduction for some individuals with OCD. These include: clomipramine, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, sertraline, and paroxetine. Exposure and response prevention is the specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy that has been shown effective with OCD. This therapy teaches individuals a variety of techniques with which they can avoid performing their compulsive rituals, as well as ways with which they can effectively deal with their anxiety and intrusive thoughts. The current consensus among researchers is that the combination of medications with cognitive behavior therapy is the most effective way of treating OCD.

You can call our clinic for an evaluation that can determine whether you meet for these diagnoses. With proper treatment, individuals can learn to face their fears and can begin to engage in previously feared and restricted behaviors. For more information on treatments available at our clinic, please see the Treatment web page. Please, email us at or call at (850) 645-1766 for more information.

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