Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic, potentially disabling psychiatric disorder. This condition is characterized by persistent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) or certain behaviors that are repetitive and unnecessary but are extremely difficult to overcome (compulsions). People with OCD often feel powerless, distressed, and anxious because of the condition.
Generally, the obsessive rituals are performed privately because affected people believe others may not understand their feelings and behavior. People with OCD also realize that their actions have no real purpose but still feel unable to stop.
OCD affects up to 3% of the population and occurs in all ethnic groups. It affects men and women equally. It is sometimes confused with other anxiety disorders but, in reality, the condition is an illness that requires treatment.
OCD is caused by a combination of biological, genetic, and environmental factors. Researchers have shown that changes in the level and balance of chemicals in the brain are associated with anxiety and related disorders. Research also indicates that OCD runs in families (i.e., it has a genetic component), and rarely, OCD can develop after certain childhood bacterial infections (streptococcal) or after brain or head injuries or traumas.