What is OCD?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can appear in a variety of ways, with different people having different sets of symptoms. As the name suggests, OCD is characterized by both obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive, and distressing thoughts or images. These may be about all kinds of things, such as being contaminated by germs or dirt, harm coming to self or loved ones, objects out of place or uneven, or intense guilt related to moral or religious beliefs. When people with OCD experience obsessions they feel driven to engage in ritualistic behaviors and routines (compulsions) to help them cope with the anxiety produced by obsessions. Common compulsions include hand washing and other excessive cleaning, checking, counting, and repeating behaviors. Although compulsions may start off small, they gradually become more time consuming and begin interfering with everyday activities.
If left untreated, OCD can take over all areas of one's life. The gold-standard treatment for OCD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with a focus on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). This approach involves gradually introducing stimuli related to obsessions and simultaneously preventing engagement in compulsions. Over time clients learn that the obsessions are not harmful, and engaging in rituals is not necessary. Families also work with ERP providers to learn effective ways to help their children with OCD at home.