Close

Overview

Transition Services

Sample Daily Schedule

Facilities Tour

Overview

Measuring Success

Performance Mgt Committee

Success Stories

For Caregivers

For Professionals

Fees For Service

Apply

Corporate Partners

Planned Giving

Annual Fund

Donate

Wishing Well

Glossary

Useful Links

Who We Are

Strategic Plan

Board of Directors

Administrative Staff

Annual Reports

Ecotherapy in Clinical Practice

Summer Solstice 2024

Navigating the Mental Health Crisis in Young Adults

Summer Solstice 2024 Friday, June 21, 2024. Learn More
Resource Library Glossary

Key Definitions

The following are definitions associated with mental health care. Information sources include the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

What is Obsessive-compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by repetitive, unwanted, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and irrational, excessive urges to do certain actions (compulsions). Although people with OCD may know that their thoughts and behavior don't make sense, they are often unable to stop them.

Symptoms typically begin during childhood, the teenage years or young adulthood, although males often develop them at a younger age than females. 1.2% of U.S. adults experience OCD each year.

Symptoms

Most people have occasional obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors. In an obsessive-compulsive disorder, however, these symptoms generally last more than an hour each day and interfere with daily life.

Obsessions are intrusive, irrational thoughts or impulses that repeatedly occur. People with these disorders know these thoughts are irrational but are afraid that somehow they might be true. These thoughts and impulses are upsetting, and people may try to ignore or suppress them.

Examples of obsessions include:

  • Thoughts about harming or having harmed someone
  • Doubts about having done something right, like turning off the stove or locking a door
  • Unpleasant sexual images
  • Fears of saying or shouting inappropriate things in public

Compulsions are repetitive acts that temporarily relieve the stress brought on by an obsession. People with these disorders know that these rituals don't make sense but feel they must perform them to relieve the anxiety and, in some cases, to prevent something bad from happening. Like obsessions, people may try not to perform compulsive acts but feel forced to do so to relieve anxiety.

Examples of compulsions include:

  • Hand washing due to a fear of germs
  • Counting and recounting money because a person is can't be sure they added correctly
  • Checking to see if a door is locked or the stove is off
  • "Mental checking" that goes with intrusive thoughts is also a form of compulsion

Causes

The exact cause of obsessive-compulsive disorder is unknown, but researchers believe that activity in several portions of the brain is responsible. More specifically, these areas of the brain may not respond normally to serotonin, a chemical that some nerve cells use to communicate with each other. Genetics are thought to be very important. If you, your parent or a sibling, have obsessive-compulsive disorder, there's around a 25% chance that another immediate family member will have it.

Diagnosis

A doctor or mental health care professional will make a diagnosis of OCD. A general physical with blood tests is recommended to make sure the symptoms are not caused by illicit drugs, medications, another mental illness, or by a general medical condition. The sudden appearance of symptoms in children or older people merits a thorough medical evaluation to ensure that another illness is not causing of these symptoms.

To be diagnosed with OCD, a person must have must have:

  • Obsessions, compulsions or both
  • Obsessions or compulsions that are upsetting and cause difficulty with work, relationships, other parts of life and typically last for at least an hour each day

Learn more at www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Obsessive-compulsive-Disorder

Back to Glossary