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An Overview of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders

Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders encompass a range of mental health conditions characterized by repetitive thoughts, behaviors, and urges. Understanding these disorders is crucial for providing effective treatment and support to those affected.


A graphic with the words "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" written over multiple images associated with different compulsions that might be attributed to OCD: There is someone neatly arranging colorful paper clips in the top left, someone washing their hands in the top right, someone wiping off their glasses in the bottom left, and someone crouching to closely examine the floor with a magnifying glass in the bottom right.

What They Encompass


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is perhaps the most well-known, but several related disorders share similar features. These include:


  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD): Preoccupation with perceived flaws in physical appearance.

  • Hoarding Disorder: Persistent difficulty discarding possessions, resulting in excessively cluttered living spaces.

  • Trichotillomania (Hair-Pulling Disorder): Recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out hair.

  • Excoriation (Skin-Picking) Disorder: Repeated picking at skin, causing lesions.


Common symptoms and behaviors include intrusive thoughts, repetitive actions, and significant distress or impairment.


Reducing Stigma


Stigma around obsessive-compulsive and related disorders can hinder individuals from seeking help. Strategies to reduce stigma include:


  • Education and awareness: Providing accurate information about these disorders.

  • Encouraging open conversations: Normalizing discussions about mental health.

  • Highlighting successful treatment stories: Sharing experiences of individuals who have effectively managed their conditions.


How Much More Common It Is Than Expected


Contrary to popular belief, obsessive-compulsive and related disorders are more common than often assumed. According to NOCD, 1 in 40 people or roughly 2.3% of the population will develop OCD. Many individuals go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, underscoring the need for greater awareness and understanding.


A man sitting on the floor, resting his arms and head on his knees, which are pulled close to him.

Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders vs. Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder


Understanding the distinction between Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is crucial, as they are often confused due to their similar names. However, they are distinct conditions with different symptoms, causes, and treatment approaches.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)


  • Definition: OCD is characterized by the presence of obsessions (intrusive, unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that cause significant anxiety) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors or mental acts performed to reduce the anxiety associated with the obsessions).

  • Symptoms: Common obsessions include fears of contamination, harming others, or a need for symmetry. Common compulsions include repetitive cleaning, checking, counting, or performing actions.

  • Onset and Course: OCD typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood, although it can start in childhood. The course of OCD can vary, but it often becomes chronic if left untreated.

  • Impact on Functioning: OCD can significantly impair daily functioning, causing distress and taking up substantial time.


Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)


  • Definition: OCPD is a personality disorder characterized by a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and control at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency.

  • Symptoms: Individuals with OCPD may be excessively devoted to work and productivity, adhere strictly to rules and moral codes, and be inflexible about matters of ethics and values. They often struggle with delegating tasks and may be miserly in spending.

  • Onset and Course: OCPD typically begins in early adulthood and is chronic. It is more about enduring patterns of behavior and inner experiences rather than specific episodes or phases.

  • Impact on Functioning: While individuals with OCPD can be high-functioning and successful in their careers, their rigid perfectionism and control can lead to significant interpersonal problems and stress.


Accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment.


A cutout of a head's side profile, being held in the palm of a pair of hands, with several arrows pointing out from a jumble of lines in its center.

Treatment Options for Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the gold standard treatment for obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. It involves changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. At Atlantic Counseling for Empowerment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one of the many treatment options we have available.


Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)


ERP, a specific type of CBT, is highly effective for OCD. It involves gradual exposure to feared thoughts or situations and response prevention via encouraging the avoidance of compulsive behaviors performed to alleviate anxiety. 


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)


ACT focuses on accepting thoughts and feelings rather than fighting them, and committing to actions aligned with personal values. It complements CBT and ERP by helping individuals cope with difficult emotions.


ACE's Role in Treatment


Atlantic Counseling for Empowerment (ACE) offers specialized services for treating obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. ACE's approach includes the utilization of gold-standard treatment methods including CBT and ERP as well as providing additional support and resources to ensure comprehensive care. 


For more information on ACE's specialties and services, visit ACE's Services Page. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please contact us.


Learn More and Don’t Hesitate to Seek Help


Understanding obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, their prevalence, and effective treatment options is vital. Reducing stigma and encouraging treatment can significantly improve the lives of those affected. If you or someone you know is struggling, don't hesitate to seek help and explore the resources available through Atlantic Counseling for Empowerment


For more information on mental health and treatments, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is a valuable resource.

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