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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (or OCD) is often depicted in movies as frantic cleaning or superstitious behavior. The term is even used as common shorthand to mean “I like things clean and orderly.” 

However OCD is a complex mental disorder that can take on many forms and affects around 2.2 million adults in the United States. 

The National Institute of Mental Health defines Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as “a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.”

OCD symptoms occur in a predictable cycle, which usually follows this pattern: An obsessive thought leads to an increase in anxiety which leads to compulsive behavior that provides temporary relief.

There are many types of OCD, but the most common are

  • Contamination obsessions – Obsessive thoughts about contamination which may be paired with cleaning compulsions.
  • Hoarding – Difficulty parting with material items. 
  • Symmetry obsessions – Obsession with visual symmetry which may be paired with ordering compulsions.
  • Harm obsessions – Unwanted violent thoughts about harming oneself or another
  • Checking – Compulsively double-checking things like locks and switches, or obsessively checking on loved ones.
  • Intrusive thoughts – Unwanted thoughts or images that flood the brain and cause anxiety.

OCD is a serious mental illness and requires medical treatment. The Peace of Mind organization provides education, resources and support to those struggling with OCD.