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Understanding OCD

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Image of a sign displaying 'OCD,' representing the condition of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and its impact on individuals' lives

According to Faces of Abnormal Psychology website, 2% of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and about 4% will experience the disorder at some point in their lives. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can begin at any time from preschool to adulthood. Symptoms of the disorder begin gradually, often during adolescence or early adulthood. In children, compulsive actions usually appear first and obsessive thoughts often develop later. Children may express obsessive-compulsive symptoms however, they typically have poor insight and seldom perceive that their compulsive behaviors are excessive. In adults, about one-third of those diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder later report that they began having symptoms during their childhood. Unfortunately, in most cases, their symptoms were unrecognized until later points in their lives.

Diagnosing an individual with obsessive-compulsive disorder can be difficult. Research shows that the average person goes seventeen years from the onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder before they begin receiving appropriate treatment. This delay can be attributed to individuals attempting to hide their symptoms, as well as many healthcare providers being unfamiliar with the clinical disorder. Obsessive-compulsive symptoms can cause distress, dominate a significant amount of time in a person's daily life, and may negatively impact a person’s work, social life, and/or relationships. Many adults with OCD have a good insight into their problem and are able to recognize that their obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions are irrational. However, there are certain individuals that lack insight into their disorder.

There are many effective treatment options for individuals that suffer from OCD. Some of the more popular treatments include psychoeducation, cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), and medications (antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications). Practicing mindfulness in addition to the above treatments has also been clinically proven to be effective in reducing anxiety and stress levels. Stress can cause obsessive-compulsive disorder to become more exaggerated. Mindfulness can also help an individual with OCD become more aware of their triggers and cognizant of their obsessive behaviors. CBT can help the person recognize their obsessive actions and help them challenge and cope with their obsessive thoughts.


Faces of Abnormal Psychology. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Marroquin, B. (2017). Abnormal psychology.

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