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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that affects people of all ages and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. About 1.2 percent of Americans have OCD. This anxiety disorder often begins in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood, with the symptoms appearing at 19 years old on average.

For people with OCD, thoughts and ideas are persistent, creating unwanted routines and behaviors which, if they are not fulfilled, can cause great distress to the individual. Common behaviors include checking in on things, hand washing, or cleaning that can significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions.


Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, images, or ideas that won’t go away, causing extreme distress. Individuals with OCD do not want to have these thoughts and recognize that these thoughts are excessive products of their mind. Obsessions are time-consuming and can get in the way of important activities the person values. Typical obsessions include excessive concerns about contamination or harm, excessive focus on religious or moral ideas, or the need for symmetry or exactness.


Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or rituals that the person feels driven to act out repeatedly in response to an obsession. This behavior is aimed at preventing or reducing distress or a feared situation. Some examples of compulsions include:


The person may fear that contamination might cause harm to oneself or a loved one. The common compulsions might be to wash, clean, or avoid anything that is believed to be contaminated.


Repeating may help the person dispel anxiety. The person may utter a name, phrase, or repeat a behavior several times.


The need to check on things, such as door locks, keys, or the stove, to prevent damage, a fire, leaks, or harm. Some people develop checking rituals before leaving their house.

Ordering and arranging:

Some may order and arrange things a certain way to reduce discomfort. They may put objects in a particular order or arrange items in a symmetric fashion.


Scientists still do not know the exact cause or causes of OCD. However, research suggests that differences in the brain and genes of those affected may play a role. Causes include:

  • Chemical, structural and functional abnormalities in the brain
  • Genetic and hereditary factors
  • Environmental factors
  • Stressors
  • Personality


At Mile High Psychiatry, we find a combination of therapy and medication to be a suitable treatment for OCD in children and adults. Various forms of therapy can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and problem-solving therapy. Medication needs will vary from patient to patient, depending on the severity of the disorder.

Do you have questions regarding OCD for yourself or your child? Request an appointment with Mile High Psychiatry to learn more.

Mile High Psychiatry

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