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Top Ten Facts about OCD

written by: Alicia Miller • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 1/21/2011

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a mental health condition experienced by around 2% of the general population. In this article, you'll learn some of the most interesting facts about OCD.

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    1. OCD Stems from Anxiety

    Obsessive compulsive disorder is categorized as an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

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    2. OCD is Disruptive

    Like most anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder causes significant impairment to the person suffering from this disease. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, OCD is characterized not only by obsessive, intrusive thoughts, but also by ritualistic compulsions. The compulsions are intended to ease the anxiety of the obsessions, but this ends up becoming a vicious circle. Compulsions only provide temporary relief from anxiety, so they must be continually performed. In a sense, the person ends up being controlled by these rituals.

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    3. OCD is More Common Than You Think

    OCD affects nearly 2.2 million American adults each year. It also affects children and teenagers. According to the NYU Child Study Center, almost one million children are afflicted by OCD each year. In fact, OCD symptoms often start in childhood and continue into adolescence and adulthood.

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    4. OCD Begins at a Young Age

    According to the NYU Child Study Center, OCD's onset among adults with the disorder in 50% of the documented cases is before the age of 15. In fact, in 2% of the cases, the age of onset was between 7 and 12. Even preschool aged children can develop OCD.

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    5. OCD May Be Genetic

    According to the NYU Child Study Center, nearly 20 percent of children who develop OCD have a family member who also has the disorder.

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    6. OCD May Be Biological

    Research has shown that OCD may have biochemical roots. According to OCD Chicago, the brain of a person with OCD functions differently than the brain of a normal adult. Some studies have shown that the neurotransmitter serotonin may play a key role in disorder as well.

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    7. Handwashing Isn't the Only Compulsive Behavior

    One of the most interesting facts about OCD is that it manifests differently in different people. Based on what you've seen on TV and the movies, you may think that obsessive hand-washing is a main feature, and it is, for some people. However, there are many other types of compulsive behaviors, including:

    • Checking - which involves repeated checking to make sure you've locked the door or turned off the stove
    • Counting - such as having to eat exactly 50 peanuts, no more, no less
    • Hoarding - which is the accumulation of usually worthless materials such as old newspapers
    • Obsessive cleaning - such as constantly cleaning a house that is not dirty.

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    8. OCD is Uncontrollable

    If you know someone who suffers from OCD, you might think they have a choice in the matter. Sometimes, you may find yourself thinking, "Why don't they just stop?" In fact, the person is quite simply unable to control their behavior. On some level, they may most likely realize the futility of their actions, but the compulsion to perform the act is just too strong to resist.

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    9. OCD is Variable

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an interesting fact about OCD is that the course of the disorder can change. For some people, symptoms may lessen over time. For others, they may get worse. Still others may experience no change at all.

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    10. OCD is Treatable

    OCD can often be effectively treated with a combination of exposure-based psychotherapy and medication. Exposure-based therapy focuses on slowly exposing the person to their fears, under controlled circumstances, until they no longer fear the anxiety-provoking stimuli.

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