Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by obsessions (compulsive thoughts) and compulsions (compulsive actions). Obsessions are worrying, disturbing, pointless and nasty, but keep coming back. Compulsions are intended to ignore, neutralise or stop the obsessions.


In case of an obsessive-compulsive disorder, there is a combination of causes. Factors that may play a role in the development of this condition are:


When a person has an obsessive-compulsive disorder, he or she may suffer from only obsessions, only compulsions or both.
With compulsions, one feels the urge to perform particular actions over and over again; the person has no control over himself. Mysophobia is an example of a compulsion. Checking and organizing can also be a compulsion. If the compulsion is not being performed, the person is anxious and restless. Compulsions are often preceded by obsessions. Obsessions include frequent nonsensical, terrifying and unwanted thoughts. For example, the obsession to hurt someone else.
In both compulsions and obsessions, the person concerned knows that they really are absurd and useless. Yet, someone may be so preoccupied with these thoughts, that he or she can no longer function normally.


The diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder is mainly made on the basis of the history of the patient. If the doctor suspects that the problem is a mental illness, the patient will probably be referred to the professional mental health professional for evaluation and treatment. A psychiatrist or psychologist will determine the diagnosis of OCD by asking questions about the patient’s obsessions and compulsions and their consequences in work and relationships.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be treated in several ways:


An obsessive-compulsive disorder rarely disappears spontaneously. Because OCD can be a chronic (long-term) disease, it may take years of treatment (five to ten years). The early start of treatment may reduce the impact of the disease. However, the prospects are good. In about half of the patients, improvement occurs and about ten percent recover completely. In only ten percent, the disorder deteriorates, in spite of therapy.