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Definition: obsessive-compulsive disorder from The Macquarie Dictionary

a disorder of the mind in which the sufferer has intrusive irrational thoughts and engages in repetitive rituals to find temporary relief.


Summary Article: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
from Encyclopedia of Addictions

Obsessions and the compulsive behaviors often associated with them are symptoms of an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Like many other mental disorders, it is rooted in anxiety but takes the form of persistent and unwelcome ideas or thoughts that lead to ritualistic behaviors—compulsions—that are often irrational, such as repetitive hand washing, counting regimens, or hoarding unneeded food or objects. Thus the obsession is a persistent idea or thought that excessively preoccupies an individual; the compulsion is an irresistible urge to perform a specific act to quiet the obsessive thought.

Truly compulsive behaviors differ from those associated with impulse control disorders. Impulsive behavior arises from compelling urges that are consistent with the individual's wishes; although the behavior may have negative consequences, the affected person, on some level, derives pleasure from it. Pathological gambling and stealing (kleptomania) are examples. Although some regard addictive behaviors as obsessions and many addictive behaviors are defined as compulsive, any activities that meet criteria defining addiction are manifestations of impulse control disorders rather than obsessive-compulsive disorders.

When an obsession and the compulsion it produces become pathological—when they interfere with normal functioning—they are considered psychiatric illnesses. Although they tend to be chronic, many people suffering from them have been successfully treated with medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Further Reading
  • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, 4th Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.
  • Bell, Jeff. Rewind Replay Repeat. Center City, MN: Hazelden Foundation, 2007.
  • Grant, Jon E., and Kim, S. W. Stop Me Because I Can't Stop Myself: Taking Control of Impulsive Behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
  • Copyright © 2009 by Greenwood Publishing Group

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