OCD) is a psychological disorder with main characteristics, obsessions, and compulsions. Obsessions are recurrent and intrusive thoughts that cause anxiety or distress. Compulsions are behaviors that aim to reduce the anxiety or distress caused by those obsessions. Although OCD is not considered an obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder (OCSS), it has been found that there are some cases that the symptoms of this disease, although not severe or with an early onset, can be considered in this category.
If someone has OCD it means they have obsessions and compulsions.
Symptoms with obsession
An obsession is when you keep thinking about something again and again even though it causes distress or anxiety for you. For example, if you constantly worry that the door might not be locked, or if you keep thinking someone will die because of bad luck.
Symptoms with compulsion
A compulsion is when you feel like you need to do something again and again even though it doesn’t make sense to you. For example, repeatedly checking the door is locked or repeating a routine until you feel it is ‘just right.
Symptoms with both obsessions and compulsions
Many people with OCD have both obsessions and compulsions, but some have only one or the other.
People with OCD often find their obsessions and compulsions interfere significantly with their work, social life, and family activities. People who have a very strong need to complete things in a ‘just right’ way may find it hard to be flexible and adaptable in their lifestyle. OCD can also sometimes lead people to behave in socially unacceptable ways — for example, compulsive hoarders and checkers might be at risk of eviction or relationship breakdown.
Adult-onset obsessive-compulsive disorder (AO-OCD)
Adult OCD is associated with a variety of disorders, such as mood and anxiety disorders. There is growing evidence that suggests early-onset obsessive-compulsive disorder (EO-OCD) may have a different genetic liability, course, and prognosis than AO-OCD. However, little is yet known about specific factors that might predict the expression of OCD in adulthood. There is a lack of longitudinal studies of individuals at risk of developing OCD across the lifespan.
It has been found that around 40% of people with OCD have their first symptoms in childhood or adolescence, but it can start at any age after 5 years old. On the other hand, about 60% of adults with OCD develop the disorder in adulthood. The risk factors for developing OCD vary and can include having a family member who also has/had OCD or when someone is under significant life stress.
Symptoms that occur when one is an adult can be different from those when one was a child or adolescent; these symptoms can include thoughts about sexual orientation, or aggression. The age of onset can influence the severity of obsessive-compulsive symptoms and how much cognitive function is affected by OCD. People with early-onset are more likely to have higher rates of anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, substance abuse disorders, other anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and suicide attempts.
The rates of OCD in adult-onset are higher than child/adolescent-onset cases. It is estimated that 1% of the general population has adult-onset OCD. However, it can be difficult to establish an accurate estimate of the number of adults with OCD because some adults who have had obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors since childhood may not realize they act on these thoughts.
Factors that can increase the risk of developing OCD
Some of the risk factors that can increase the risk of developing OCD are:
• Family history (genetic) – if there is a family member with OCD, you have an increased chance of developing it too. People who have first-degree relatives with OCD are more likely to develop this disorder than those whose relatives do not have OCD.
• Obsessional traits in childhood – when children show compulsive behavior, such as routinely checking that the door is locked or that their parents are okay, there is a higher chance of them developing OCD when they get older.
• Having another mental health condition – having ADHD can increase the risk of developing OCD later in life.
• Stressful life events – if someone experiences stressful events in their life, especially when they are young, does increase the chance of developing OCD when they get older.
• Being dissatisfied with your looks or appearance – many people who have problems with body dysmorphic disorder are often diagnosed with OCD when they are adults. It is also seen in eating disorders and is referred to as having OC-NOS (‘not otherwise specified).
Factors that might decrease the risk of developing OCD
Some of the factors that might decrease the risk of developing OCD are:
• Having a supportive family – people with a close, supportive family have been found to have lower rates of OCD.
• Positive coping skills – people who have ways to cope with their problems and stressful events in their lives, such as talking to someone or trying to distract themselves from their problems might be less likely to develop OCD.