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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • An anxiety disorder characterized by pathologic obsessions (recurrent intrusive thoughts, ideas, or images) and compulsions (repetitive, ritualistic behaviors or mental acts) causing significant distress
  • Not to be confused with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder


  • Predominant age: mean age of onset 22 to 36 years
    • Male = female (males present at younger age)
    • Child/adolescent onset in 33% of cases 1/3 of cases present by age 15 years
    • 85% of cases present at <35 years of age
    • Diagnosis rarely made at >50 years of age
  • Predominant gender: female > males but males more commonly affected in childhood

Pediatric Considerations
Insidious onset; consider brain insult in acute presentation of childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Geriatric Considerations
Consider neurologic disorders in new-onset OCD.

  • 2.3% lifetime in adults
  • 1–2.3% prevalence in children/adolescents (1)

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Exact pathophysiology/etiology unknown
  • Dysregulation of serotonergic pathways
  • Dysregulation of corticostriatal-thalamic-cortico (CSTC) path
  • Genetic and environmental factors
  • Pediatric autoimmune disorder associated with streptococcal infections (controversial)

  • Greater concordance in monozygotic twins
  • Positive family history: prevalence rates of 7–15% in first-degree relatives of children/adolescents with OCD

Risk Factors

  • Exact cause of OCD is not fully elucidated.
  • Combination of biologic and environmental factors likely involved the following:
    • Link between low serotonin levels and development of OCD
    • Link between brain insult and development of OCD (i.e., encephalitis, pediatric streptococcal infection, or head injury)

General Prevention

  • OCD cannot be prevented.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment can decrease patient’s distress and impairment.

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobia/social phobia
  • Tourette syndrome/tic syndromes
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorder/body dysmorphic disorder

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Stephens, Mark B., et al., editors. "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)." 5-Minute Clinical Consult, 27th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019. Medicine Central, im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/1688282/all/Obsessive_Compulsive_Disorder__OCD_.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, et al, eds. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. 27th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/1688282/all/Obsessive_Compulsive_Disorder__OCD_. Accessed July 15, 2019.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). (2019). In Stephens, M. B., Golding, J., Baldor, R. A., & Domino, F. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Available from https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/1688282/all/Obsessive_Compulsive_Disorder__OCD_
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) [Internet]. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, Domino FJ, editors. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. [cited 2019 July 15]. Available from: https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/1688282/all/Obsessive_Compulsive_Disorder__OCD_.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) ID - 1688282 ED - Stephens,Mark B, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/1688282/all/Obsessive_Compulsive_Disorder__OCD_ PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -