Obsessive-compulsive disorderFor other things named "OCD", see OCD (disambiguation).
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (or OCD), as categorized by the DSM-IV, is an anxiety disorder. It is characterised by the obsessive need to perform some task. These tasks are often known as rituals. Note that the DSM-IV Axis II Obsessive-compulsive Personality Disorder is considerably different from Obsessive-compulsive disorder, and is often what people mean when they refer to somebody as "obsessive-compulsive".
In many cases the task may be seeming simple, but the sufferer feels that they must perform it in some particular way for fear of dire consequences. Examples might include checking that one has locked one's car many times over before leaving it parked, or turning the lights on and off a set number of times every time one leaves a room. Such a person, when addicted to cigarettes, may argue that they can only quit smoking on the 13th or 27th of each month, and only when they possess 4 cigarettes at noon. Some people who have OCD may be completely aware that such obsessions are not rational, but feel bound to comply with them because otherwise they suffer from panic or irrational dread.
Obsessions are ideas that the person cannot stop thinking about. These are often fears about getting a disease, getting hurt, or causing harm to someone. Compulsions refer to actions that the person performs, usually repeatedly, in an attempt to make the obsession go away. These are often cleansing or avoidance actions.
A common aspect of OCD is magical thinking, where the sufferer believes that they will be punished for their thoughts or failure to perform their self-imposed rituals. Often rituals are created as defences against these fears. There are strong similarities between the cleansing actions engaged in by OCD sufferers and those of religious purification rites.
OCD can be treated with a variety of anti-depressants, such as Anafranil, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as including Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Luvox, and Anafranil. Symptoms tend to return, however, once the drugs are discontinued. There are claims that long-term remission of symptoms has been achieved without medications through cognitive-behavioral therapy making use of the principles of extinction and habituation.
Violence is rare among OCD sufferers, but the disorder is often debilitating to the quality of life. Also, the psychological self-awareness of the irrationality of the disorder can be painful. For people with severe OCD, it may take several hours a day to carry out the compulsive acts. More often, they avoid certain situations or places altogether.