OCD Chicago

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Information for Individuals

Information for Adults

OCD affects millions of people in the U.S. Getting treatment is essential to overcoming obsessions and the accompanying compulsions.

OCD is a neurobiological anxiety disorder.  Put simply, it’s a potentially disabling illness that is characterized by involuntary intrusive thoughts or excessive worry, doubts and fears (obsessions) and ritualistic behavior (compulsions).  While symptoms vary, many people with OCD suffer greatly because they feel trapped in a never-ending cycle of worry.

OCD tends to be a chronic condition; currently there is no cure.  But OCD isn’t a hopeless disorder. There is treatment.  Cognitive Behavior Therapy has helped many thousands of people with OCD, and is recommended by the Mayo Clinic, the National Institutes of Mental Health and Harvard Medical School. In addition, medication is sometimes used, alone or in combination with Cognitive Behavior Therapy, to treat OCD.

Despite the recent depiction of people with OCD in movies or television programs as somewhat eccentric and comical characters, anyone who has OCD knows that it’s no laughing matter.  There’s nothing funny about the suffering caused by this disorder.

If you have OCD, think you may have OCD, or care about someone who has OCD, try to learn as much as you can about it. Information is a powerful tool in the fight against this condition.

Who Is Affected by OCD?

Between two and three percent of the U.S. population is affected by OCD.  Current estimates are that one in 40 adults and one in 100 school-aged children have this condition.

Learn more about who is affected by OCD

How Can I Tell If It’s OCD?

OCD is characterized by obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors that significantly interfere with daily life. Obsessions are unwanted, recurrent, and disturbing thoughts or images that are difficult to suppress and which cause overwhelming anxiety, doubt, or distress. Compulsions are repetitive, ritualized behaviors that a person feels driven to perform to alleviate the anxiety or discomfort created by the obsessions. The large majority of people with OCD know their obsessions and compulsions are excessive or irrational, yet they have little or no control over them. When this kind of behavior takes up a significant amount of time (at least an hour a day) it may be symptomatic of OCD.

Learn more about what OCD is and about OCD symptoms

Is there a Test for OCD?

There is no laboratory test that can detect OCD.  However, to begin evaluating symptoms you may be experiencing, take the OCD self-screening test.  The test can give you insights into your thoughts and behaviors.

Regardless of what your self-screening test may reveal, only a qualified mental health professional trained in the diagnosis and treatment of OCD can conduct a proper assessment and tell you if you have OCD.

Take the test now

What is Postpartum OCD?

An estimated two to three percent of new mothers experience Postpartum OCD (PPOCD) after the birth of their baby.  With this disorder, a woman may have obsessive intrusive thoughts about her baby’s safety, causing severe distress.

Learn more about Postpartum OCD

What is “Pure O”?

Some people who have OCD believe they have a “subtype” of OCD in which they suffer only from having only obsessions—not the accompanying compulsions typically seen with OCD.  They may have been told that this is “pure obsessional” OCD or “pure O.”  Many experts today do not support this diagnosis or the existence of “pure O.”

Learn more about “Pure O”

What Other Conditions May Be Related to OCD?

Other mental health disorders may coexist with OCD and are thought to be biologically linked to the disorder as part of an obsessive compulsive “spectrum.”  Those conditions are:

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder
  • Trichotillomania (hair pulling)
  • Skin-Picking
  • Nail Biting

And there are other related conditions that may be seen accompanying OCD.  These conditions are not OCD, but also should be treated.  They include:

  • Major Depression
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Tic Disorders
  • Tourette Syndrome
  • Attention Deficit Disorders
  • Asperger Syndrome

Learn more about OCD Spectrum Disorders and Related Conditions

What Causes OCD?

Many people are eager to explore the cause of OCD, as if this information could provide clues about why or how they acquired the disorder—and potentially reveal ideas about what they could change to make OCD go away.  This is an unrealistic belief.  You can’t change the fact that you have OCD and OCD isn’t contagious – no one among your family or friends can “catch it.”  OCD is not a result of how you were treated as a child, and it isn’t caused by job pressures or other stressful life situations (although stress can make OCD symptoms worse).

Learn more about what causes OCD

Is there a treatment that can give me relief from OCD?

Fortunately, there is a treatment for OCD: Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).  It is the most effective and scientifically supported behavioral treatment, and is recommended by nationally recognized institutions such as the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School.  This therapy uses two techniques—Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (ERP) and Cognitive Therapy.

Thousands of people have been helped by making the commitment to CBT and working with a therapist trained to treat OCD patients.

Learn more about Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive Behavior Therapy, sometimes accompanied by medication, is the only scientifically-supported treatment for OCD.

Does treatment always work?

A key factor in gaining relief is making the personal commitment to treatment.  People who truly want to get better and agree to undertake a program of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (ERP and Cognitive Therapy) must attend sessions on a schedule determined by their therapist, and must do “homework” between sessions. In most cases, CBT sessions are conducted as out-patient sessions.

The commitment to treatment can be challenging.  Those who have significantly decreased symptoms (or become symptom free) attended therapy sessions even when it was inconvenient, agreed to work honestly with their therapist and continued the prescribed ERP exercises at home, even when doing so was challenging.

Learn more about Treatment Challenges

Will I need to take medication to treat OCD?

Sometimes a doctor will prescribe medication to treat OCD. Antidepressants classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are frequently used, because they are known to decrease OCD symptoms in many people. They may be also be helpful in reducing levels of depression and anxiety.

Unfortunately, medication alone usually results in only a partial reduction of OCD symptoms. Therefore, many therapists recommend that medication be used in conjunction with Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

Because each person is different, and body chemistry differs greatly among people who suffer with OCD, no one can predict which medication will be the most effective for you. In addition, there are differences with regard to how SSRIs and other medications are used in children and adults. Your therapist can recommend medication and only a doctor can prescribe them.

Learn more about OCD medications

How can I find (and choose) a therapist?

Only a qualified cognitive behavior therapist can provide effective, appropriate treatment for OCD.  Many psychotherapists do not have the proper training to diagnose and treat OCD.  Before committing to treatment with any therapist, ask questions to help determine if he or she is competent to treat this disorder.

Learn more about choosing a therapist

If you live in the Chicago area, you can contact OCD Chicago to discuss therapy options for OCD.  Or to find a therapist outside the Chicago area, contact the International OCD Foundation.  You can view therapist listings on their web site.

What if someone avoids treatment or refuses to get treatment?

Everyone deserves to get relief from OCD.  But sometimes a person who suffers from OCD may find it difficult to begin treatment or commit to treatment.  There can be many reasons for this.

Learn more about recovery avoidance

I need to know more.  What should I do?

You can download or request free copies of OCD Chicago’s OCD Guides to get current, detailed information about OCD.  There are a number of web sites that provide information about OCD, related disorders and treatment.  And there are many books about these subjects.  In our More Resources section, you’ll find the web sites and books OCD Chicago has reviewed and selected to help you get the information and support you need.  You can also contact us for help.

Download OCD Guides from OCD Chicago

Request printed versions of OCD Guides

Visit our More Resources section for selected web sites and books

Contact OCD Chicago

How can I get in touch with others who understand my life with OCD?

Although anyone with OCD may feel alone, there are many others who are facing the same kinds of OCD-related challenges or who have successfully found relief from OCD.  Many are willing to share insights into their journey to combat OCD, and offer support.

Read Personal Stories

Find a Support Group

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