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Chapter 23. Anxiety > Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is the most difficult of the anxiety disorders to understand, since it is significantly removed from our typical experience. The sufferer is subject to either obsessions or compulsions. Obsessions are intrusive, inappropriate, and persistent ideas, thoughts, or impulses that cause the person distress. They come to mind against the person’s will and desire. It could be an image of something bad happening or an urge to do something the person finds unacceptable, such as hurting someone.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors without instrumental value that are carried out to limit anxiety. These include excessive hand-washing, checking, counting, hoarding, or arranging objects. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder may feel compelled to wash their hands dozens of times a day, check to see that the stove is off or the door is locked five or six times in a row, count the ceiling tiles wherever they go, or have the objects on their desk in exactly the right order. If blocked from doing these activities, the sufferer becomes very anxious.


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