obsessive-compulsive disorder (2023)

about the disease

obsessive-compulsive disorder (1)

What is OCD?

Rituals, obsessions, and compulsions are something that most people have experienced, but for some, these kinds of thoughts and behaviors take over and completely spiral out of control and become a disease. This disease is called OCD.

OCD is an anxiety disorder in which obsessive thoughts and compulsions become so overwhelming that they become a problem. OCD is an abbreviation for obsessive-compulsive disorder. In Danish it is called obsessive-compulsive disorder or simply OCD.

Obsessions are unwanted thoughts that intrude and are hard to get rid of. And compulsive acts, some people feel compelled to do them over and over again. Often out of fear that something catastrophic will happen, for example, that your mother will get sick if she doesn't hang her clothes in the closet in a very specific order. Or maybe you need to count to 100 before you get on the bus so it doesn't run erratically. It may also be that you repeatedly check that the door is locked before leaving, or that the windows are closed and the stove is off.

When you have OCD, you know full well that the actions are exaggerated and don't make sense. But when the compulsions do take place, there is a temporary sense of relief and calm that is very difficult to resist. To be diagnosed with OCD, the symptoms of the compulsion must cause distress or significantly affect a person's social functioning.

If your symptoms start to keep you from doing the things you normally want or do, talk to your doctor.

obsessive-compulsive disorder (2)


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What are the symptoms of OCD?

Most people with OCD are aware that their obsessions and compulsions are rampant. But they are ruled by fear. The anxiety is so strong that they often give in to the symptoms of the compulsion to achieve peace in the short term.

Forced actions have a calming effect on the anxiety and discomfort they feel. But the effect only lasts for a short time. Because discomfort and anxiety return quickly. And to get relief, you do the compulsions again. And again. And again. Like in a vicious circle.

OCD exists in all degrees of severity, from mild symptoms where you can live a normal life, to severe debilitating symptoms. Some only have obsessive thoughts, others only compulsive actions. But most have both.

(Video) 2-Minute Neuroscience: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Many have mild obsessive-compulsive symptoms, but this is not the same as having OCD.

Typical signs of OCD

  • obsessions
  • coercive actions
  • Voltage
  • Distress
  • avoidance behavior


Obsessions are unwanted imaginations, intrusions, images, and ideas that come up repeatedly, are unpleasant, perhaps even terrifying, and very difficult to get rid of. Even if the thoughts are unwanted and you rationally walk away from them, and even if they may disagree with your attitudes and feelings.

Typical obsessions are, for example, an exaggerated fear of getting infected or dirty. It could also be an exaggerated fear that something could happen to you or someone you care about. Either because you were careless or did something terrible on purpose.

coercive actions

Compulsions are actions or rituals that you feel you must perform to calm obsessive thoughts and alleviate the anxiety you feel. But only briefly. The will to take action returns quickly and, in the long run, helps to maintain anxiety.

Common compulsions include washing your hands all the time, perhaps up to 100 times a day, or checking the same things over and over again. For example, if the door is locked or if the plates are turned off. They can also be mental rituals where you have to say a prayer or say certain things to yourself, i.e. specific lines inside your head. Other compulsions may be putting things in a certain order or an exaggerated desire to do things correctly or perfectly.

avoidant behavior

If you have OCD, you often spend time avoiding situations that may trigger your compulsive symptoms, such as places or people you avoid.

Many also avoid situations where others might have one. Many are aware of the rituals they have, which is why they prefer to perform rituals in their bedroom when they are alone than in the kitchen.


What is the difference between the different types of OCD?

There are basically two different types of OCD. One type is dominated by obsessive thoughts (obsessions), where intrusions and mental images appear repeatedly, the other type is characterized by forced actions (compulsions), which are rituals that you feel compelled to perform.

In some cases, one type is dominant, but many times you have a combination of the two types.


How does the disease develop?

Most people have OCD when they are children or teenagers. The disease usually begins in childhood, while the diagnosis is not made until adolescence. And often the symptoms continue into adulthood. Symptoms usually develop gradually, but occasionally symptoms appear suddenly, almost overnight.

OCD manifests itself in the same way in children, adolescents and adults, and the obsessions and compulsions are very similar. Often the child will try to hide the symptoms from her because he perceives them as embarrassing, or he may be afraid of being seen as crazy.

For some, OCD becomes a chronic condition and they have difficulty leading a normal life, others have good and bad periods. Dean occasionally has a bout of obsessive-compulsive symptoms, usually during stressful times. For example, when they change jobs, have to take an exam, have a child or other circumstances that impose greater responsibility on them, in good times they can lead a completely normal life.

Getting the correct diagnosis can be of great importance. Because it can provide insight and understanding of the difficulties you are having. Both for the person with OCD and for the environment. And it's important to get the right treatment.

The most common compulsions

repetition rituals
washing rituals
Mental rituals like counting
Control rituals, how to check things
order and symmetry

life with

What is life like with OCD?

Obsessions and compulsions are unpleasant and time consuming. They can make it a big problem to just walk out the door if you have to repeatedly check that you have turned off the water or the door is locked.

Many people don't know they have OCD. They may think that they have some kind of flaw and that they just need to "put themselves in order." And many are so embarrassed that they don't tell others about their symptoms and try to hide them. This means that other people may perceive them as a bit weird. And that means many people with OCD don't get the right diagnosis and therefore the right help.

Obsessions and compulsions can make it so difficult to be with others that you isolate yourself. They can interrupt daily routines, work and family life, or completely normal social activities. It may also be that the person avoids certain situations, places, or people because it can trigger obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions, and that the disorder also prevents them from doing what the person in question wants.

Some have good and bad periods. They may have a flare of obsessive-compulsive symptoms, usually during stressful times. The rest of the time, they can lead a normal life. Others have only mild symptoms and lead a normal daily life. If severely affected, OCD can be debilitating and destroy your ability to function at school, work, and with your family if left untreated.

In children, the condition can mean they have trouble concentrating at school or just following a movie. For example, because they count or say the lines in their head, and without you realizing it.

(Video) Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) - causes, symptoms & pathology


What treatment exists for OCD?

If left untreated, OCD can become a chronic disorder. With treatment, the symptoms can be reduced or, in the best of cases, disappear completely.

The first option for treating OCD is psychotherapy in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy.1.If the therapy is insufficient, the therapy can be combined with medication.

Psychoeducation - knowing OCD

As part of treatment, some learn about their OCD. Knowing your disease to better deal with it is also called psychoeducation. Psychoeducation can be a separate course or part of a therapy course.


Cognitive behavioral therapies are the main treatment for OCD. In therapy, the therapist works with defiance anxiety, disaster thoughts, and compulsions. The goal is to reduce the anxiety that triggers the compulsions and the compulsions, which in turn lead to more anxiety.

Carefully and at your own pace, you expose yourself to situations and things that trigger the compulsive symptoms, but without performing the compulsive acts. That way, you train yourself to resist instead of letting anxiety take over. The therapy can be done individually, in a group or as a family, if you are a child or a young person.

Medical treatment

OCD can also be treated with medication. For example, antidepressant medication in the form of so-called SSRI preparations. Other times, some slightly older preparations (TCA). In particularly severe cases, adults can also be treated with antipsychotic medications.2It is rare that medication can completely eliminate OCD.3.

facts about OCD

  • OCD is an anxiety disorder
  • Just over 2% have had OCD at some point in their life

  • OCD can become a chronic disease


1. National Board of Health, 2016: National Clinical Guidelines for the Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

2. National Board of Health, 2016: National Clinical Guidelines for the Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

3. Central Jutland Region, 2014: Information on OCD in adults. The disease, treatment and prevention. Central Jutland Region Psychiatry.

good advice for you

You can do it by yourself

Many are ashamed of their symptoms and try to hide them. And that's a shame. Because OCD can be treated. If you have OCD symptoms, it's crucial to seek help. And it's important that you get in on time.

Good advice to tame your OCD

  • Know your OCD.

  • Find out what you can do to change your patterns.

  • Be honest with your therapist. How to get the best treatment.

  • Take care and avoid stress.

  • Be patient. It takes time to change ingrained patterns and habits.

obsessive-compulsive disorder (3)


Our board is professional and volunteer. You can call, chat and write to our anonymous forum. Also as family or professional. The council is open every day, throughout the year. Free and anonymous.

(Video) Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Obsessions, Triggers, and Treatment | Mass General Brigham

for relatives

You can do it as a relative.

It can be difficult to understand that the person suffering from OCD cannot simply "get together" and stop the compulsions. And it can be unpleasant and frustrating to witness the suffering of someone you care about. But try to avoid showing your anger and frustration as this can make your symptoms worse.

As a family member, you can make a big difference by being there and caring and helping encourage people to seek help.

Good advice for you who are a family member.

  • help to get help

  • know the disease

  • Don't scold and avoid saying things like 'get a hold of yourself' or 'relax'

  • Take care of yourself and stick to what gives you energy and profit. And possibly talk to other people in the same situation.

  • Do not adapt your own behavior to the disorder. Helps maintain anxiety and only intensifies compulsive symptoms

For those of you who are related

It can hurt to be related to someone with a mental illness. It can also be exhausting, unpredictable, and worrying. When someone you care about is going through a difficult time, it affects you.

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(Video) What is OCD?

How many people have OCD?

Population studies show that just over 2% have had OCD at some point in their lives.

The disease usually appears in childhood or adolescence. There are about the same number of men and women who suffer from OCD, but the symptoms usually appear earlier in men.

About a quarter of men who develop OCD are diagnosed before the age of 10, while most women develop the condition in their teens.4.


4. Ruscio, A. et al. (2010): The epidemiology of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey

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What causes and therefore causes OCD?

There is no simple explanation for why some people develop OCD. The disease occurs in a complex interaction between various biological, social and psychological factors.

There is a higher risk of developing OCD if someone in your family has it. Research also suggests that there is a genetic or hereditary link between OCD and bipolar disorder. There is also an increased risk of getting OCD if there is bipolar disorder in the family.5.

Studies also suggest that there is an increased risk of OCD among children whose mothers are older and have birth complications. And an increased risk among addicts. Studies also suggest that there may be a link between traumatic or stressful events and the development of OCD.6.


5.Pallanti, S. et al., 2011: Comorbidity of obsessive-compulsive disorder: clinical evaluation and therapeutic implications. Frontiers in Psychiatry 2.

6. Brander, G. et al., 2016: Systematic review of environmental risk factors for obsessive-compulsive disorder: a proposed roadmap from association to causation. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 65.

Multiple diagnoses at the same time

What diseases can occur along with OCD?

Many people with OCD also have other mental disorders, for example, symptoms of depression, other anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorder. The incidence is significantly higher than in the general population.7.

In children and young people with OCD, there is also an excess of Tourette syndrome. And girls in puberty can have eating disorders at the same time as OCD8Obsessive-compulsive symptoms are also found in other mental illnesses, for example, schizotypy.


9. Pallanti, S. et al., 2011: Comorbid obsessive-compulsive disorder: clinical evaluation and therapeutic implications. Frontiers in Psychiatry 2.

10. Gerlach, J., 2008: Angstbogen: symptoms, causes and treatment of anxiety, Psykiatrifondens Forlag

obsessive-compulsive disorder (4)

(Video) OCD: Signs & Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder | Stanford

basic course of mental illness

Do you want to know more about anxiety and depression or learn the difference between borderline and other personality disorders? In Psykiatrifonden's basic mental illness course you will learn more about the most common mental illnesses and dress better...


What are 3 major symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder? ›

  • Fear of contamination or dirt.
  • Doubting and having difficulty tolerating uncertainty.
  • Needing things orderly and symmetrical.
  • Aggressive or horrific thoughts about losing control and harming yourself or others.
  • Unwanted thoughts, including aggression, or sexual or religious subjects.
Mar 11, 2020

What is the most common obsession seen in obsessive compulsive disorder? ›

Common obsessive thoughts in OCD include:

Fear of being contaminated by germs or dirt or contaminating others. Fear of losing control and harming yourself or others. Intrusive sexually explicit or violent thoughts and images. Excessive focus on religious or moral ideas.

What makes OCD maladaptive? ›

OCD-related maladaptive beliefs such as threat overestimation, importance of thoughts and their control, inflated responsibility, intolerance of uncertainty and perfectionism increase the likelihood of catastrophic appraisals of common intrusive experiences (Obsessive Compulsive Cognitions Working Group, 1997, ...

What are adaptive coping skills for OCD? ›

Examples of adaptive skills include problem solving, meditation, acceptance, and writing in a journal. Maladaptive responses include getting drunk, avoiding situations, suppressing feelings, and obsessive compulsive rituals.

What is an OCD person like? ›

Constantly seeking approval or reassurance. Rituals related to numbers, such as counting, repeating, excessively preferencing or avoiding certain numbers. People with OCD may also avoid certain people, places, or situations that cause them distress and trigger obsessions and/or compulsions.

What is the personality of someone with OCD? ›

In patients with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, preoccupation with order, perfectionism, and control of themselves and situations interferes with flexibility, effectiveness, and openness. Rigid and stubborn in their activities, these patients insist that everything be done in specific ways.

What is the root cause of obsession? ›

Many people who experience obsessions show a genetic predisposition to it. One thought is that obsessions may be something that we inherit through our DNA. Other experts think there may be chemical differences within some peoples' brains that might make you more likely to have obsessions.

What are the two major symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder? ›

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts ("obsessions") and/or behaviors ("compulsions") that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.

How do you break the cycle of obsessive thoughts? ›

Tips for addressing ruminating thoughts
  1. Distract yourself. When you realize you're starting to ruminate, finding a distraction can break your thought cycle. ...
  2. Plan to take action. ...
  3. Take action. ...
  4. Question your thoughts. ...
  5. Readjust your life's goals. ...
  6. Work on enhancing your self-esteem. ...
  7. Try meditation. ...
  8. Understand your triggers.

What part of the brain is damaged in OCD? ›

Imaging, surgical, and lesion studies suggest that the prefrontal cortex (orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortexes), basal ganglia, and thalamus are involved in the pathogenesis of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Are people with OCD perfectionists? ›

While perfectionism isn't a formal symptom of OCD, people with perfectionistic tendencies are more likely to have OCD. Perfectionism can also be a symptom of OCPD, a personality disorder. Although perfectionism can be difficult to deal with, it's possible to overcome these tendencies if they cause you distress.

What are mental acts in OCD? ›

Common Examples of OCD Mental Compulsions

Trying to suppress or stop unwanted thoughts. Thinking special words, sayings, images, or phrases. Trying to change a “bad” thought into a “good” thought. Saying prayers over and over or in accordance with specific rules.

What are five things that a person with OCD might do? ›

Common types of compulsive behaviour in people with OCD include:
  • cleaning and hand washing.
  • checking – such as checking doors are locked or that the gas is off.
  • counting.
  • ordering and arranging.
  • hoarding.
  • asking for reassurance.
  • repeating words in their head.
  • thinking "neutralising" thoughts to counter the obsessive thoughts.

What are the best exercises for OCD? ›

Mindful meditation, breathing exercises, progressive relaxation, guided imagery, biofeedback. Many other relaxation techniques empower individuals with the ability to take the focus off of their problem thoughts and behaviors.

What is the most widely used psychological treatment for OCD? ›

More specifically, the most effective treatments are a type of CBT called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), which has the strongest evidence supporting its use in the treatment of OCD, and/or a class of medications called serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SRIs.

What is daily life like for someone with OCD? ›

OCD can make it difficult for people to perform everyday activities like eating, drinking, shopping or reading. Some people may become housebound. OCD is often compounded by depression and other anxiety disorders, including social anxiety, panic disorder and separation anxiety.

What happens to the brain when you have OCD? ›

Studies show that OCD patients have excess activity in frontal regions of the brain, including the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which could explain their intrusive thoughts and high levels of anxiety, respectively.

Is OCD part of mental illness? ›

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings.

How does OCD affect a person emotionally? ›

Patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) often experience aversive emotions such as anxiety, fear and disgust in response to obsessive thoughts, urges or images.

Which hormone is responsible for obsession? ›

Some research studies have found evidence to suggest that oxytocin is associated with OCD. We review the growing evidence that suggests oxytocin and gonadal steroids might play a role in the pathogenesis of some forms of OCD.

Is obsession a form of anxiety? ›

Anxious obsessions can occur in all anxiety states and all anxiety disorders. It is only when it is connected with strong "rituals" or "compulsions" that are attempts to "appease" or "neutralise" the obsession, that it becomes obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Is obsession a form of depression? ›

It is in the more severe forms of depression that obsessions and compulsions are seen which is also indicated by scales such as the Hamilton Observer Rating Scale for Depression (Hamilton, 1960) where these symptoms are included in supplementary items to assess the severity of depression.

What are non obvious signs of OCD? ›

There are, however, some little known signs or symptoms that are also a part of dealing with OCD. These can include body hyperawareness, fear of emotional contamination, perfectionism, obsession with morality, and fear of harming others. Most believe that these obsessions stem from anxiety.

Can you overcome OCD without medication? ›

OCD Treatment can be done without any drugs with treatments like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and psychotherapy. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a behavioral issue that is associated with compulsions and obsessions.

Do obsessive thoughts ever go away? ›

Obsessive-compulsive symptoms generally wax and wane over time. Because of this, many individuals diagnosed with OCD may suspect that their OCD comes and goes or even goes away—only to return. However, as mentioned above, obsessive-compulsive traits never truly go away. Instead, they require ongoing management.

What medication helps with obsessive thoughts? ›

  • Clomipramine (Anafranil) for adults and children 10 years and older.
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac) for adults and children 7 years and older.
  • Fluvoxamine for adults and children 8 years and older.
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva) for adults only.
  • Sertraline (Zoloft) for adults and children 6 years and older.
Mar 11, 2020

Is OCD a chemical imbalance? ›

Individuals with OCD often have certain chemical imbalances present in the brain. Changes in the neurochemicals serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate are normally present in OCD cases.

Is OCD due to lack of serotonin? ›

Obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder which, like many anxiety disorders, is marked by low levels of serotonin. Serotonin, a type of neurotransmitter, has a variety of functions that make a deficiency a serious and anxiety producing issue.

Is OCD mental or neurological? ›

Once thought to be psychodynamic in origin, OCD is now generally recognized as having a neurobiological cause. Although the exact pathophysiology of OCD in its pure form remains unknown, there are numerous reports of obsessive-compulsive symptoms arising in the setting of known neurological disease.

Is being OCD on the spectrum? ›

The obsessive-compulsive spectrum is an important concept referring to a number of disorders drawn from several diagnostic categories that share core obsessive-compulsive features. These disorders can be grouped by the focus of their symptoms: bodily preoccupation, impulse control, or neurological disorders.

Is having OCD on the spectrum? ›

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and OCD are two different conditions, however, it is true that some symptoms of autism overlap with those of other disorders, such as OCD, and can look similar (Højgaard et al.

What is pure OCD? ›

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that causes obsessions and compulsions. Pure obsessional (or “pure O”) is an unofficial type of OCD where compulsions mainly show up as thoughts instead of actions. Like all types of OCD, pure O can be treated with medications and therapy.

Is OCD psychotic? ›

While OCD is considered a mental health condition, psychosis is not. Psychosis describes a mental state in many other conditions, including OCD. While someone with OCD can experience psychosis, this does not mean that OCD is a psychotic disorder. This distinction is important to make, especially when seeking treatment.

Does OCD have mood swings? ›

Both people with bipolar disorder and OCD are likely to experience: changes in mood. elevated mood. anxiety.

Does OCD have psychotic features? ›

Methods: From a total of 475 patients with DSM-III-R OCD evaluated and/or treated in an outpatient OCD clinic, 67 patients (14%) were identified as having psychotic symptoms in addition to OCD. Psychotic symptoms were defined as hallucinations, delusions, and/or thought disorder.

What are 3 ways to treat OCD? ›

Treatments for OCD
  1. Exposure Therapy. The psychotherapy of choice for the treatment of OCD is exposure and response prevention (ERP), which is a form of CBT. ...
  2. Imaginal Exposure. ...
  3. Habit Reversal Training. ...
  4. Cognitive Therapy.
Oct 28, 2022

What is the gold standard treatment for OCD? ›

The gold standard treatment for OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is a kind of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) called “exposure with response prevention,” or exposure therapy. When children experience anxiety they often try to avoid the things that trigger it.

How do I stop OCD intrusive thoughts? ›

7 Tips on How to Stop Intrusive Thoughts
  1. Understand Why Intrusive Thoughts Disturb You. ...
  2. Attend the Intrusive Thoughts. ...
  3. Don't Fear the Thoughts. ...
  4. Take Intrusive Thoughts Less Personally. ...
  5. Stop Changing Your Behaviors. ...
  6. Cognitive Therapy for Treatment of OCD Intrusive Thoughts. ...
  7. Medications that Help with Intrusive Thoughts.
Sep 25, 2020

What are 3 examples of compulsive behaviors? ›

Common compulsions include excessive cleaning and hand washing; repeatedly checking doors, locks, appliances, and such; rituals designed to ward off contact with superstitious objects; using prayers or chants to prevent bad things from happening; arranging and rearranging objects; and hoarding huge numbers of ordinary ...

What is the first stage of OCD? ›

The early signs of OCD are repetitive behavior, persistent worrisome thoughts, and rituals. The earlier you notice the symptoms of OCD, the faster you can get professional treatment. While there isn't yet a cure for OCD, it's possible to control the condition with medication and therapy interventions.

What are the two main symptoms of OCD? ›

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts ("obsessions") and/or behaviors ("compulsions") that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.

How do you break compulsive behavior? ›

Treatment is key for overcoming compulsive behaviors. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure and Response Prevention, and other counseling approaches have proven particularly effective. Therapy may be augmented, especially in more severe cases, with antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.

Is OCD a type of anxiety? ›

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD, is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions).

How do you test if you have OCD? ›

How do doctors test for OCD? Doctors and mental health professionals test for OCD by talking with you about your symptoms, determining if you have obsessions and compulsive behaviors, and by evaluating if these thoughts and behaviors interfere with your functioning.

Is OCD considered a mental disability? ›

Under the ADA it considers a disability to be “a physical or mental impairment” that limits someone's ability to functioning in daily activities. It includes OCD to be a disability. Those victims who have no choice but to live with OCD know how much its symptoms can interrupt day-to-day living.

Is OCD a form of trauma? ›

Not a few patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have experienced events that affected the onset. The onset of OCD is not limited to the original meaning of trauma; rather, traumatic experiences such as unexpected exposure to contaminants or various stressful life events often cause the onset of OCD.

What mental illness is similar to OCD? ›

These include the obsessive preoccupations and repetitive behaviors found in body dysmorphic disorder, hypochondriasis, Tourette syndrome, Parkinson's disease, catatonia, autism, and in some individuals with eating disorders (eg, anorexia nervosa).


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