Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, commonly referred to as OCD, is characterized by a pattern of intrusive, unwanted and anxiety-provoking thoughts that trigger intense urges to engage in compulsive, repetitive and time-consuming ritualized behaviors. The compulsive rituals are designed to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsessive thoughts, but they provide only short-term relief in what becomes an obsessive-compulsive cycle.
OCD typically becomes a chronic, lifelong disorder unless it is treated. Studies have shown that a psychotherapy called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is the most effective type of treatment for OCD. ERP has been shown to decrease OCD symptoms by up to 85 percent in up to 90 percent of individuals suffering from the disorder. Psychotropic medication in conjunction with ERP confers additional benefits and increases the effectiveness of ERP.
If you suffer from OCD you are certainly not alone. It is estimated that about one out of forty Americans suffers from the disorder. In fact, OCD is the most common psychiatric condition after phobias, depression and substance abuse. OCD has a genetic componenet and tends to run in families. Neurobiological studies have found structural and functional abnormalities in the brains of individuals with OCD that may predispose them to develop the disorder.