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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Clinical Description

The hallmark of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are repetitive and intrusive persistent ideas, thoughts, urges, or images experienced as intrusive and inappropriate and that cause marked anxiety or distress. Examples include fears of germs and contamination. Obsessions are not pleasurable or experienced as voluntary: they are intrusive and unwanted and cause marked distress or anxiety in most individuals. The individual attempts to ignore or suppress these obsessions or to neutralize them with another thought or action (e.g., performing a compulsion).

Compulsions are repetitive and intentional behaviors or mental acts performed in response to obsessions or according to certain rules that must be applied rigidly. Examples include repetitive hand washing and ritualistic checking. Compulsions are meant to neutralize or reduce the person’s discomfort or prevent a dreaded event or situation. The rituals are not connected in a realistic way to the event or situation or are clearly excessive. Obsessive compulsive disorder has a lifetime prevalence of 1.6-3% and comprises one of the top causes of global disability according to the World Health Organization.

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