Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
July 22, 2021

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Contrary to pop-culture, people with OCD do not love cleaning, but are suffering from a disorder.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) and feels the urge to repeat them over and over.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms or compulsions are repetitive behaviors that people with OCD feel the urge to do in response to obsessive thoughts. Not all rituals or habits are compulsions. Everyone double checks things sometimes. But a person with OCD generally:

  • Can't control their thoughts or behaviors, even when they are recognized as excessive
  • Spends at least 1 hour a day obsessing over these thoughts or behaviors
  • Doesn’t get pleasure when performing the behaviors (may feel brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts are causing)
  • Experiences significant problems in their daily life due to these thoughts or behaviors

Some individuals with OCD also have a tic disorder. Motor tics are sudden, brief, repetitive movements, such as eye blinking, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and head or shoulder jerking. Common vocal tics are repetitive throat-clearing, sniffing, and grunting sounds.

Common Symptoms Include:

  • Excessive cleaning and/or handwashing
  • Ordering and arranging things in a particular, precise way
  • Repeatedly checking on things, such as if the door is locked or the oven is off
  • Compulsive counting
  • Aggressive thoughts towards others or self
  • Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, or harm

Symptoms may come and go, ease over time, or worsen. People with OCD may try to help themselves by avoiding situations that trigger their obsessions, or they may turn to alcohol or drugs. Sometimes people with OCD also have other mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphic disorder (a disorder in which someone mistakenly believes that a part of their body is abnormal). Although most adults with OCD recognize what they are doing doesn’t make sense, most children may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary.

Risk Factors

OCD is a common disorder that affects adults, adolescents, and children all over the world. Most people are diagnosed by about age 19, and typically earlier with boys than with girls. Onset after age 35 also does happen. 

The exact causes of OCD are unknown, but risk factors include:

  1. Genetics

Twin and family studies have shown that people with first-degree relatives (such as a parent, sibling, or child) who have OCD, are at a higher risk for developing OCD themselves. 

  1. Environment

Studies have shown an association between childhood trauma and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. In some cases, children may develop OCD following a streptococcal infection—this is called Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS).


OCD is typically treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. Although most patients with OCD respond to treatment, some patients continue to experience symptoms and seek other methods.

  • Medication

Psychiatric drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors help many people control obsessions and compulsions. They might take 2 to 4 months to start working.

  • Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for adults and children with OCD. Cognitive behavior therapy and other related therapies (e.g., habit reversal training) can be as effective as medication for many individuals. Research also shows that Exposure and Response Prevention (EX/RP) – spending time in the situation that triggers compulsions (e.g. touching dirty objects) but then not undertaking the usual compulsion (e.g. handwashing) – have been effective in reducing compulsive behaviors, even in people who did not respond well to medication.

  • Relaxation

Simple things like meditation, yoga, and massage can help with stressful symptoms.

When To Seek Help

If you are experiencing any of the common systems above for more than a month, if they're severe, or if you feel you are having trouble getting your life under control, please give us a call.

Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent OCD symptoms from getting worse.

Psychiatry Online Malaysia

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