Not Just Hand-Washing: OCD Attributes You Should Know About

When many of us think of obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms, images of repeated hand-washing or stressfully arranging a row of pencils come to mind. And while cleanliness,order, and symmetry are very common themes relating to this condition, OCD has also been found to be related to a number of other, lesser-known factors that most people are unaware of. For this reason, taking a look at additional aspects can contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of OCD, and is worth considering when consulting a mental health professional on the matter and deciding on a treatment option.

A Few Key Points Regarding OCD

Before we move on to low-visibility facts and factors associated with OCD, let’s review some of the more well-known ones:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental health disorder marked by obsessive thoughts, compulsive, repeated behavior, and the detrimental anxiety they cause.
  • OCD-related thoughts often involve one or more of the following themes:
    • Cleanliness or fear of contamination.
    • Great concern the individual or a loved one will experience a catastrophe.
    • A focus on order and symmetry.
    • Taboo and “forbidden” thoughts that go against acceptable social norms.
  • OCD-related behavior can be linked to the above themes (e.g. repeated hand-washing to stave off illness), or be seemingly unconnected (e.g. turning the lights on and off following a distressing thought about a loved one). Regardless of its reasoning, OCD behavior acts as a way to calm the anxiety caused by OCD.
  • In addition to thoughts and actions, a third OCD feature is the level of insight, or awareness the individual has to the fact that they are facing this condition.
  • OCD is also differentiated by whether the individual suffering from it has dealt with a tic disorder, either currently or in the past. A tic disorder is defined as a series of rapid, involuntary movements or sound gestures.
  • 2.3% of US adults, and 1%-2.3% of US children and adolescents, will face OCD.
  • Highly effective OCD treatments include Deep TMS treatment, SSRI medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), such as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
  • Deep TMS is the only non-invasive medical device FDA-cleared to treat OCD.

obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms

Additional Aspects: Who Is More Likely to Develop OCD?

Now that we’re clear on the basic features of OCD, let’s take a look at some additional potential correlates between this condition and other factors.

Gender: The question of gender and OCD has yet to be definitively answered: while the European ICD health manual has not found a considerable difference between OCD prevalence among women and men, the American DSM mental health manual notes that women are affected at a slightly higher rate than men in adulthood, and that during childhood boys are more commonly affected than girls. The DSM continues to say that while females with OCD are more likely to develop cleaning-related OCD, males with OCD are more likely to focus on forbidden thoughts and symmetry, as well as develop a tic disorder.

Age can Also Shape One’s OCD: An individual’s age and stage in life have been found to influence what type of content they will fixate on, as part of their OCD. Specifically, children and adolescents tend to obsess over and fear catastrophes hurting a loved one, while adolescents reported higher rates of sexual and religious-focused OCD.

Hoarding: Individuals with OCD have a higher chance of also suffering from hoarding, a mental health disorder that causes them to hold on to objects and suffer from extreme anxiety over the thought of discarding them. The link between OCD and hoarding many times runs through the fear that the individual or a loved one may be caused harm: for example, when a person battling both OCD and hoarding may experiences anxiety over the thought that clearing their home of all the objects they have accumulated may result in their not having the very object they might need in an emergency. Several other spectrum conditions, such as body dysmorphic disorder, are closely related to OCD.

Avoidance: For many patients battling this condition, their OCD-related anxiety is triggered by a loss of control, be it over a fear of contamination or from the possibility they had left the stove on. For this reason, many individuals with OCD eventually begin avoiding unfamiliar situations, or settings that include more variables outside their control. As a result, they may start limiting their excursions, stay indoors more, and slowly isolate themselves from friends, family and new experiences.

Negative Emotions and Early Inhibition: Patients with OCD have been found to show higher than average negative emotionality. Childhood inhibition has also been shown to be related to the development of OCD in adulthood.

Suicidality: Up to one quarter of individuals with OCD are reported to have attempted to take their own lives. This risk increases with the additional presence of major depressive disorder.

Non-Prognostic Factors

Extensive OCD research has not found the appearance of this condition to be more common in certain cultures, as opposed to others. Similarly, one’s culture has not been found to determine at what age they are more likely to develop OCD, or what other health conditions might arise with it.