Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a psychiatric anxiety disorder most commonly characterized by a subject’s obsessive, distressing, intrusive thoughts and related compulsions (tasks or “rituals“) which attempt to neutralize the obsessions. It is listed by the World Health Organization as one of the top 10 most disabling illnesses in terms of a diminished quality of life.
The phrase “obsessive-compulsive” has worked its way into the wider English lexicon, and is often used in an offhand manner to describe someone who is meticulous or absorbed in a cause (see also “anal-retentive“). Such casual references should not be confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder; see clinomorphism. It is also important to distinguish OCD from other types of anxiety, including the routine tension and stress that appear throughout life. Although these signs are often present in OCD, a person who shows signs of infatuation or fixation with a subject/object, or displays traits such as perfectionism, does not necessarily have OCD, a specific and well-defined condition.
To be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, one must have either obsessions or compulsions alone, or obsessions and compulsions, according to the DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria. The Quick Reference to the diagnostic criteria from DSM-IV-TR (2000) describes these obsessions and compulsions: