Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Adults

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that is characterized by the presence of obsessions and compulsions:

  • Obsessions: intrusive, distressing, and repetitive thoughts, images, or impulses.
  • Compulsions:  behaviors or mental acts that are aimed at reducing the distress of an obsession.

There are many different type so obsessions including, but not limited to:

  • Violent or harming obsessions – fear of causing harm or abuse to others.
  • Contamination obsessions – fear of germs, contaminants, and serious diseases.
  • Sexual obsessions – intrusive fears of sexually abusing one’s children, being gay, etc.
  • Religious obsessions (i.e., scrupulosity) – fears of blasphemy, unfounded doubts and fears about salvation, etc.
  • Obsessions with the need for symmetry or exactness – ‘just-not-right’ feelings about things not being orderly.

In conjunction with the obsessions, the compulsions:

  • Mental Neutralization – analyzing, replaying, trying to think a good thought to try to replace a bad thought, etc.
  • Compulsive Behaviors – checking, washing, repeating, etc.
  • Avoidance – of places or things that provoke obsessions, etc.
  • Reassurance Seeking – repetitive questions or confessions, asking others to make sure things are safe, etc.

People of all ages can be affected by OCD. It is important to note that occasionally having an unwanted, intrusive thought or checking something too many times is something that occurs to nearly everyone that doesn’t mean someone has OCD. However, when the obsessions and compulsions start taking a significant amount of time, create a lot of distress in someone’s life, or keep the person from participating in their normal activities, it is important to seek help. OCD is considered a chronic disorder with a ‘waxing and waning’ course. That means that the symptoms of OCD tend to go through periods of being more and less significant and severe. In fact, sometimes the symptoms may seem to disappear while other times the symptoms can be completely consuming to the person.

The good news is that there are good treatment options for OCD. Learning about OCD and the obsessive-compulsive cycle is the first steps to beating it. Depending on the subtype(s) of OCD someone has and the severity of the OCD, there are a number of evidence-based treatments that can be used.

For Further Information:

What is OCD? [IOCDF]

Videos about OCD, Its Subtypes, and Treatment in Children, Teens, and Adults [Peace of Mind Foundation]
Click on the section headings to find information specific to what you are needing information about:

  • Education (What is OCD, Types of OCD, Related Disorders)
  • Living with OCD
  • Treatments
  • For Caregivers

Characteristics of Obsessional Thinking 
For some OCD sufferers, recognizing and labeling that they are obsessing is one of the biggest hurdles to beating the disorder.  This document highlights some of the main features of obsessions so that individuals with OCD can learn to identify it more quickly. [ACCFS]

Whirlpool Model for Beating Rumination
This document describes a technique for helping individuals “shift” when their minds are stuck due to obsessing or intense emotions. [ACCFS]

4 Steps of Brain Lock
This site offers an overview of Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz’s 4-Step method for overcoming OCD. This information is helpful for OCD sufferers as well as their friends and family members who want to know more about it in order to encourage them.

Help for Family Members and Friends of Someone with OCD
Understanding OCD and how to be helpful support person is the first step toward helping your loved ones and yourself. [ACCFS]

True Guilt/False Guilt
This article highlights the differences between true guilt and false guilt. [ACCFS]

Screening Tools

Florida Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory (FOCI)
The FOCI is a free, brief measure of the number and severity of OCD symptoms.


The OCD Workbook: Your Guide to Breaking Free from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder  amazon.com
Authors: Bruce Hyman, Ph.D. & Cherry Pedrick, RN
This 352-page workbook helps individuals struggling with OCD develop a step-by-step plan to address their symptoms. It has very helpful chapters for individuals who are primarily obsessional (those who have few behavioral compulsions), for those dealing with scrupulosity (religious and moral obsessions and compulsions), and for family members of someone with OCD.

The Illustrated Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living   amazon.com
Author: Russ Harris
This 176-page book is takes the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and teaches them through fun, easy-to-understand cartoons. Even if you are ‘not a reader”, you will have no problem getting through this book and learning the concepts!


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Christian Clients: A Faith-Based Workbook  amazon.com
Author: Joshua Knabb, Psy.D.
This 194-page workbook offers an overview the core ACT skills and includes biblical examples, equivalent concepts from the writings of early Christians, worksheets for clients to better understand and apply the material, and strategies for clients to integrate a Christian worldview with the ACT-based processes.  Christian struggling with depression and anxiety will find this book very supportive their spiritual beliefs as they seek to overcoming those challenges.

Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior  amazon.com
Author: Jeffrey Schwartz, MD
This 272-page book is a resource for both those struggling with OCD and those trying to support them. It is easy to understand and provides a 4-step program for overcoming OCD.