Posted by: RealisticRecovery | April 20, 2009

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – Definition

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Obsessive–compulsive disorder (O.C.D.) is a mental disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts, or obsessions resulting in compulsive behaviors and mental acts that the person feels driven to perform, according to rules that must be applied rigidly, aimed at reducing anxiety stemming from the intrusive thoughts.

Compulsions may include touching or checking things repeatedly until the anxiety diminishes. In severe cases, OCD affects a person’s ability to function in everyday activities. Such a person may take several hours a day to carry out the compulsive acts. Also, the psychological self-awareness of the irrationality of the disorder can be painful.

OCD is the fourth most common mental disorder and is diagnosed nearly as often as the physiological ailments asthma and diabetes mellitus. In the United States, one in 50 adults has OCD. The phrase “obsessive–compulsive” has become part of the English lexicon, and is often used in an informal or caricatured manner to describe someone who is meticulous, perfectionistic, absorbed in a cause, or otherwise fixated on something or someone. Although these signs are often present in OCD, a person who exhibits them does not necessarily have OCD, and may instead have obsessive–compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) or some other condition.

Diagnostic criteria

To be diagnosed with OCD, a person must have obsessions and/or compulsions, according to the DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria. The Quick Reference to the diagnostic criteria from DSM-IV-TR (2000)[4] states six characteristics of obsessions and compulsions:


1. Recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced as intrusive and that cause marked anxiety or distress.
2. The thoughts, impulses, or images are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems.
3. The person attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, impulses, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action.
4. The person recognizes that the obsessional thoughts, impulses, or images are a product of his or her own mind, and are not based in reality.


1. Repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.
2. The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts are not actually connected to the issue, or they are excessive.

In addition to these criteria, at some point during the course of the disorder, the individual must realize that his/her obsessions or compulsions are unreasonable or excessive. Moreover, the obsessions or compulsions must be time-consuming (taking up more than one hour per day), cause distress, or cause impairment in social, occupational, or school functioning. OCD often causes feelings similar to those of depression.


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