Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder that involves repetitive, unwanted thoughts, called obsessions, and repetitive behaviors called compulsions. With OCD, a person feels as if he or she has to complete these rituals or behaviors to prevent something bad from happening. Performing the compulsions can temporarily reduce the anxiety that a person with OCD often feels.

People with OCD might realize that these thoughts are irrational, but the obsessions and compulsions are difficult to resist. OCD affects people from all different backgrounds, classes, cultures and sexes. Currently, 3.3 million Americans are living with OCD.

What are the symptoms of OCD? A person with OCD experiences some obsessive thoughts and a particular compulsion. The intensity and frequency of these thoughts can vary, and it's not uncommon for it to be worse when a person is particularly stressed, like during exams or a breakup.

Treating OCD? There are a number of different approaches to treating OCD, and using a combination of these might be the most effective.

  • Journal it. Write your feelings and experiences down in a journal
  • Exercise. Go for a run or walk to use up excess energy. You'll feel better after you do.
  • Play video games. This can be a good way to distract yourself until the anxiety passes.
  • Try some relaxation techniques. Activities like yoga or meditation are often helpful in reducing anxiety.
  • Cry. Crying is a healthy and normal way to express your sadness or frustrations.
  • Talk to someone. Talk with a trusted friend or adult, or call a helpline like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or The Boys Town National Hotline, at 1-800-448-3000.
  • Give it time. Changes in behavior don't happen overnight, and it might take some time before all OCD symptoms go away.

Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times. 

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