OCD Signs & Symptoms

Sunrise Recovery Ranch provides obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment rooted in a science-based, research-supported clinical model to ensure a healthier, more satisfying life.

Understanding OCD

Learn about obsessive-compulsive disorder

People who struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) experience intrusive anxiety-producing thoughts and feel compelled to perform certain behaviors as a result. These intrusive thoughts, known as obsessions, are recurrent and persistent, and attempts to suppress the thoughts do not produce relief for the person thinking them. In fact, a person will attempt to reduce the anxiety from these thoughts by performing certain actions. These actions, known as compulsions, often consist of repetitive behaviors such as hand-washing, arranging items, or checking locks to alleviate his or her turmoil. A person can also feel compelled to engage in certain mental actions, such as counting or repeating words, to achieve the same anxiety-reducing effect. Some people may even resort to using substances in an attempt to reduce their anxiety. While substance use may seem to help them manage anxiety in the short-term, long-term substance abuse can create many problems of its own and can exacerbate existing symptoms of OCD or other mental illnesses. The detrimental combination of obsessions, compulsory actions, and substance abuse can occupy a significant portion of a person’s time and energy and can dramatically reduce a person’s ability to function in his or her day-to-day life.

Thankfully, obsessive-compulsive disorder is treatable with proper therapeutic intervention. With specialized care provided by an experienced and compassionate treatment center, people with obsessive-compulsive disorder can learn to manage their symptoms, begin to experience freedom from this paralyzing disorder, and receive care to address substance abuse concerns that exist alongside this condition.


OCD statistics

According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, approximately 1.2% of people in the United States have a diagnosis of OCD in a given year. During adulthood, OCD is more common among females, while in childhood, it is more common among males.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for OCD

While the causes of OCD are complex and still being researched, researchers have identified a number of genetic and environmental factors that can increase a person’s chance of developing OCD, such as:

Genetic: Like many mental health disorders, OCD tends to run in families. If a person’s relative developed OCD when the relative was an adult, that person is twice as likely to develop OCD compared to someone without a family history of the disorder. Among those whose relatives developed OCD as children, the rate of OCD increases nearly 10 times.

Environmental: Certain environmental factors may also increase a person’s chance of suffering from OCD. People who have experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, or other traumatic events are more likely to develop the disorder. In addition, certain infections and autoimmune syndromes have been associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of mental illness
  • Behavioral inhibition, prevalence of negative emotions, and internalizing symptoms in childhood
  • History of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or other traumatic experiences during childhood

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of OCD

Though the signs and symptoms of OCD depend upon the nature of an individual’s obsessions and compulsions, the following are some common signs and symptoms that may indicate that a person is struggling with OCD:

Symptoms of obsessions: A person’s obsessions, or unwanted and intrusive thoughts, may contain themes of worry or anxiety about:

  • Symmetry or order
  • Catastrophic or horrifying events
  • Oneself or a loved one experiencing harm
  • Being contaminated or dirty
  • Offensive or unpleasant ideas
  • Religious beliefs or practices

Symptoms of compulsions: In an attempt to avoid or reduce the anxiety associated with obsessive thoughts, a person may engage in certain compulsive behaviors, such as:

  • Counting
  • Avoiding certain places or situations
  • Repetition of words to oneself
  • Checking things more than once, such as light switches, oven burners, or door locks
  • Frequent hand-washing or cleaning
  • Ordering or organizing items


Effects of OCD

Should a person with OCD not seek treatment, it is possible he or she could suffer from a number of negative effects, which may include:

  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Loss of job or expulsion from school
  • Financial struggles
  • Strain in social relationships
  • Medical problems from compulsive behaviors, such as lesions on hands from repeated washing
  • Worsening of OCD symptoms
  • Onset of additional mental health symptoms
  • Developing a substance use disorder
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

Co-Occurring Disorders

OCD and co-occurring disorders

Unfortunately, people who are diagnosed with OCD often meet criteria for other mental disorders. For example, many individuals who are suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder abuse substances and can eventually be diagnosed with a substance use disorder if an addiction develops. Below is a list of other mental disorders that are known to exist alongside OCD:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Tic disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Trichotillomania
  • Excoriation
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Tourette’s disorder
  • Substance use disorder

Thanks to Sunrise Recovery Ranch, my daughter was able to get the lasting recovery she deserved from her addiction and her co-occurring mental health disorder. I am super grateful!

– Michelle A.
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