What is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Updated: May 17, 2018
  • Author: William M Greenberg, MD; Chief Editor: David Bienenfeld, MD  more...
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Answer

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a relatively common, if not always recognized, chronic disorder that is often associated with significant distress and impairment in functioning. Due to stigma and lack of recognition, individuals with OCD often must wait many years before they receive a correct diagnosis and indicated treatment.

OCD has a wide range of potential severity. Many patients with OCD experience moderate symptoms. In severe presentations, this disorder is quite disabling and is appropriately characterized as an example of severe and persistent mental illness.

Previously identified by the American Psychiatric Assocation as an anxiety disorder, OCD is now a separate diagnosis with its own chapter, "Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders," in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The condition is characterized by distressing, intrusive, obsessive thoughts and/or repetitive, compulsive actions (which may be physical or mental acts) that are clinically significant.

The new chapter groups OCD with related disorders, including body dysmorphic disorder, and conditions formerly found in the "impulse control disorder (ICD) not elsewhere classified" section, including trichotillomania.


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