When people think of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), they may picture someone with a fear of germs, a person meticulously straightening a crooked picture frame, or someone arranging a collection of shoes by color in a painfully well-organized closet. We tend to laugh at these images in the media, but as clinicians we know that OCD is much more than a quirky character trait. In fact, OCD can be quite serious, and most people with the disorder aren't laughing about it. OCD is highly impairing, and nearly two-thirds of those with the disorder suffer in nearly every major life domain, including family life, social life, annd work or school. People with OCD have almost four times the unemployment rate of the general population due to the disabling nature of symptoms. In fact, OCD is considered one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.
OCD comes in many varieties, therefore each person’s symptom presentation may be different, and these presentations can change over time. Nonetheless, decades of research seem to point to four specific symptom dimensions that describe most OCD sufferers. These include: 1) contamination obsessions with washing/cleaning compulsions, 2) symmetry obsessions with ordering compulsions, 3) doubting obsessions with repeated checking compulsions, and 4) unacceptable/taboo thoughts with mental/covert compulsions and reassurance-seeking. People with OCD may have worries in one or all of these areas, although in our clinical experience most people have one major area of concern with smaller worries in one or two other areas. Because the wide range of symptom presentations, OCD is often misdiagnosed in doctor’s offices and even among licensed mental health professionals.
For example, one common form of OCD is sexual orientation worries, called SO-OCD (and sometimes to referred to as HOCD). This is so poorly understood even by some OCD experts, that sufferers can spend years being misdiagnosed. In much the way there are medical doctors who do specialized treatments, therapists are much the same. OCD can be treated quite successfully, but it is important you find a therapist who has experience with the disorder. One other example of misdiagnosed OCD is pedophile obsessions, sometimes called POCD.
Learn more about how we treat OCD...
Read some articles at OCD Types to learn more about the different kinds of OCD and related conditions.
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