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A therapist documenting a patients Signs of OCD

The signs of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) consist of an array of unwanted thoughts or fears (obsessions) that force you to perform repetitive behaviors (compulsions).

OCD symptoms can disrupt daily functioning, sometimes causing significant distress. Both obsessions and compulsions tend to be centered on certain themes.

APA (American Psychological Association) reports that 2 to 3% of the U.S. population has OCD, a chronic and long-lasting disorder.

Many people struggling with undiagnosed OCD either ignore the obsessions they experience or try to prevent them from occurring. Unfortunately, this is ineffective and also inflames both anxiety and distress, triggering a vicious cycle of recurring obsessions and increased ritualistic behavior.

If you believe you could be suffering from OCD, you should not be ashamed or embarrassed. Although this mental health condition can be debilitating and frustrating, OCD typically responds well to treatment. The more you learn about OCD signs and symptoms, the more easily you’ll know when you should reach out for help.

What are the Signs of OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, often abbreviated to OCD, is a serious mental health disorder characterized by a cycle of unwanted, recurring thoughts known as obsessions driving you to perform compulsive, repetitive behaviors. Common examples include:

  • Cleaning
  • Hand washing
  • Checking on things constantly

Physicians and mental health care professions use APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to identify and diagnose mental health conditions. When DSM-5 replaced DSM-IV in 2013, OCD was categorized as a standalone condition. Per DSM-IV, obsessive-compulsive disorder was grouped among anxiety disorders.

The symptoms of OCD can be so challenging that social interactions are complicated and general functioning compromised.

Of the 2% to 3% of U.S. citizens diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, APA reports that the average age on onset of symptoms is 19. OCD can also present in childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Women are at slightly more risk of developing OCD than men.

Many people without a diagnosis of OCD experience distressing thoughts or engage in repetitive behaviors. The differentiating factor is that neither those thoughts or behaviors interfere with daily living.

For those who develop OCD, unwanted thoughts persist while compulsive behaviors are inflexible. Failing to perform those behaviors can cause significant distress.

Some people diagnosed with OCD are aware that their obsessions are not realistic or logical. Others have more limited insight, believing the obsessions could be valid.

Regardless of your level of awareness of the baseless nature of obsessions, attempting to disengage from those obsessive thoughts or to refrain from engaging in compulsive behaviors usually triggers negative outcomes.

APA reports that a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder calls for both of the following conditions to be met:

Either compulsions, obsessions, or both must be present for more than one hour every day.

Symptoms must cause significant distress, impairing either social or professional functioning.

OCD signs will differ from person to person and may also present differently among different demographics.

What are the signs of OCD in a child, then?

Signs of OCD in a Child

As above, an OCD diagnosis requires the presence of either compulsions or obsessions. Most children diagnosed with OCD tend to experience both obsessions and compulsions.

OCD can manifest at any time from preschool to adulthood, but typically occurs between the ages of 8 and 12, or during the late teens.

Research shows that roughly half of those diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder first experience symptoms in childhood. Roughly 1 in 200 children and teens in the United States has OCD.

Children might not always show the same symptoms of OCD as adults:

  • Children with OCD may not realize their compulsions or obsessions are excessive.
  • They may believe that everyone has those thoughts and urges.
  • Obsessions in children appear less pronounced.
  • Tics can develop more frequently with childhood-onset obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Children with OCD more commonly experience symptoms spanning multiple categories – more on those below.

Is fidgeting a sign of OCD?

No. fidgeting is one of the most common symptoms associated with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder).

If you feel your child might have OCD, consult your healthcare provider or reach out to a therapist who specializes in working with childhood-onset OCD. Treatment for kids with OCD usually involves the same combination of medication and/or therapy used for the treatment of adults with this condition.

Next, what are the signs of OCD in a teenager?

An image of a woman exhibiting the Signs of OCD

Signs of OCD in a Teenager

The most common obsessions for teens with OCD include:

  • Fear of contamination
  • Fear of germs or dirt
  • Preoccupation with bodily waste
  • Lucky or unlucky numbers
  • Intrusive sounds and words
  • Religious obsessions
  • Sexual thoughts
  • Aggressive thoughts
  • Need for precision, order, and symmetry
  • Fear of harm, to self or loved ones
  • Preoccupation with specific household items

The most common compulsions for teens with OCD include:

  • Counting rituals
  • Grooming rituals (showering, hand washing, teeth brushing)
  • Rituals to prevent harm to self or others
  • Touching rituals
  • Repeating rituals
  • Ordering and arranging objects
  • Hoarding things of no apparent value
  • Cleaning rituals related to household items
  • Checking rituals
  • Rituals after contact with a person or object

Obsessive Symptoms

Although many people diagnosed with OCD experience obsessions and compulsions, some people encounter obsession symptoms or compulsion symptoms in isolation.

Obsessions that present among those with OCD are characterized by unwanted thoughts, urges, and images. Not only are these obsessions intrusive, but they can also trigger distress and anxiety.

In an attempt to purge these persistent and unwanted thoughts, many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder perform rituals or compulsive behaviors.

Here are some of the most common categories of OCD obsessions:

  • Fear of contamination, germs, and dirt.
  • Desire for order and symmetry.
  • Aggressive thoughts associated with loss of control.
  • Unwanted sexual or religious thoughts.
  • Thoughts of harm, to self or others.
  • Problems tolerating uncertainty.

These are specific examples of common obsessions related to OCD:

  • Fear of being contaminated by touching a light switch or door handle.
  • Doubts about whether you have locked the house.
  • Thoughts of crashing your car into a crowd of people.
  • Unsavory sexual images.
  • Images of inappropriate public behavior – shouting obscenities, for instance.
  • Avoiding situations such as shaking hands to prevent obsessions.

Compulsive Symptoms

People perform the repetitive behaviors associated with OCD known as compulsions either in response to obsession-related anxiety, or in an attempt to stop something bad from happening. Regrettably, performing these behaviors brings no pleasure and only the most fleeting relief.

Compulsions are usually excessive and often unrelated to the problem they are intended to fix.

Like obsessions, OCD compulsions are also often themed:

  • Cleaning
  • Washing
  • Checking
  • Counting
  • Orderliness
  • Following a strict routine
  • Demanding reassurance

These are some of the most frequently reported compulsions by those diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder:

  • Arranging household items like canned goods symmetrically.
  • Counting in patterns.
  • Checking doors repeatedly.
  • Continually checking the oven.
  • Ensuring dollar bills are facing in the same direction.
  • Silently repeating words and phrases.
  • Washing your hands until the skin is red.

Many people not diagnosed with OCD perform certain habits and rituals. Among those with obsessive-compulsive disorder, though, complications can occur.

  • Unwanted thoughts and behaviors occur for at least one hour every day.
  • Even if you recognize that the thoughts and behaviors are excessive, you are unable to exercise control.
  • You get no pleasure from performing rituals in the form of compulsions.
  • The OCD disorder symptoms you experience cause significant issues at home and work or school.

OCD symptoms can come and go in cycles, sometimes worsening and sometimes subsiding.

Rather than trying to avoid situations likely to trigger obsessions or self-medicating symptoms with addictive substances, reach out to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about OCD.

When to Seek Help for OCD

Research indicates that approximately 90% of those diagnosed with OCD

have a co-occurring mental health condition. Anxiety disorders are the most common co-occurring disorder.

The symptoms of OCD are often similar to the symptoms of anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. This can make it challenging to obtain a precise diagnosis.

Speak with your healthcare provider and raise your concerns. Undergoing a psychological evaluation will allow you to discuss your thoughts and feelings, as well as your behavior patterns and symptoms. Your doctor may ask your permission to contact your friends or family.

OCD is diagnosed using the criteria in DSM-5-TR, the most current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

A physical exam can help to rule out other potential causes for your symptoms while also checking for any complications related to OCD.

OCD Treatment at Los Angeles Therapy Network

If you need OCD treatment in Los Angeles, we can help you here at LATN.

After a diagnosis for OCD, you will engage with treatment involving a combination of medications and psychotherapy.

As a first-line treatment, your physician may prescribe SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants). If SSRIs prove ineffective, anti-anxiety medications and other types of antidepressants may alleviate symptoms.

Psychotherapy – the clinical descriptor for talk therapy – can address compulsions and obsessions in those with OCD. Two forms of psychotherapy are proven effective for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder:

Additionally, studies show that OCD group therapy can be as beneficial as one-to-one therapy.Reach out to Los Angeles Therapy Network today to discover more about OCD treatment. There is no need to suffer alone. Call 833.604.1287 today for immediate assistance.

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