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What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition in which a person has obsessions and/or compulsions that cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The obsessions or compulsions are time-consuming, occupying more than 1 hour of attention per day. The obsessive-compulsive symptoms are not attributable to the effects of a substance (drug of abuse or medication) or another mental disorder or medical condition.


  • OCD has a lifetime prevalence in the general population of 1 to 3 percent. Some researchers have estimated that the disorder is found in as many as 10 percent of outpatients in psychiatric clinics.
  • OCD is the fourth most common psychiatric diagnosis after phobias, substance-related disorders, and major depressive disorder.
  • Men and women are equally affected with a slight trend toward women in some studies. Among adolescents, however, boys are more common affected than girls.
  • The mean age of onset is about 20 years. However, the onset of OCD can occur in adolescence or childhood, in some cases as early as 2 years of age.
  • Single people are more frequently affected with OCD than married people.
  • OCD occurs less often among blacks than among whites, although access to healthcare may explain the variation.


  • Individuals with OCD are commonly affected by other mental disorders.
  • The lifetime prevalence for major depressive disorder in persons with OCD is about 67 percent and for social phobia about 25 percent.
  • Other common comorbid psychiatric diagnoses in patients with OCD include alcohol use disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobia, panic disorder, eating disorders, and personality disorders.

Mental Health Library Sources:

Information included in all topics of the Mental Health Library comes from the Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria From DSM-5 and Kaplan & Sadock’s Concise Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry. Complete diagnostic and treatment information may be found within these publications.


Information within the Mental Health Library is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis purposes. Rather, it is provided as a public educational service to make people aware of mental health conditions. Please consult a qualified mental health professional for a diagnosis of any suspected mental health illness.

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