Obsessive Compulsive Disorder



The exact cause of OCD is not known. The nervous system, environment, and genes may play a role.

Chromosome DNA
The genes that you inherit from your family may play a role in the development of OCD.
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Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of OCD are:

  • Genes
  • A history of abuse or neglect
  • Stressful events
  • Pregnancy—and right after birth



Symptoms of OCD may be:

  • Obsessions—repeated and unwanted ideas, images, or urges, such as:
    • Fear of being harmed or causing harm
    • Excess fear of germs or dirt
    • Religious, violent, or sexual thoughts
    • Needing things in perfect order
  • Compulsions—repeated and unwanted behaviors, such as:
    • Excess checking on things—such as door locks, stoves, and light switches
    • Making lists, counting, and arranging things
    • Hoarding useless objects
    • Repeating routine actions
    • Rereading and rewriting
    • Repeating phrases
    • Excess hand washing

OCD may happen with:

  • Other anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Organic brain syndrome
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Attention deficit disorder


The doctor will ask about your symptoms. OCD is diagnosed when symptoms:

  • Are very upsetting
  • Disrupt daily life



The goal is to reduce unwanted thoughts and compulsions. Early treatment can have better results. Options may be:

  • Medicines, such as:
    • SSRIs
    • Antidepressants
  • Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy

Sometimes OCD is severe and hard to treat. In this case, options may be:

  • Electroconvulsive therapy —a brief electric pulse helps reset the brain
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)— a device sends pulses to the brain
  • Brain surgery


There are no steps for preventing OCD.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.