Do I Have OCD? Understanding Signs and Symptoms

Jan 16, 2024 | Emotional Breakdown, Mental Health, OCD, Overwhelmed, Therapy

In 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) among the ten illnesses associated with the greatest disability worldwide. Despite its alarming prevalence, many people still struggle to recognize the signs and symptoms of OCD, often dismissing their intrusive thoughts and ritualistic behaviors as mere quirks or inconveniences. In this blog, we share signs of OCD, explain the disorder, and offer tips for finding treatment.

 What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

OCD is a chronic mental health disorder characterized by persistent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions). The obsessions and compulsions associated with OCD often interfere with daily life, causing distress and impairment in various areas, including work, relationships, and health.

How Does OCD Develop?

The exact cause is not fully understood by researchers and medical professionals. It’s likely from a combination of genetic, neurological, behavioral, cognitive, and environmental factors, including:

  • Genetics: There appears to be a genetic component to OCD, according to many researchers. Individuals with a family history of OCD or related disorders may be more susceptible to developing OCD themselves. However, not everyone with a genetic predisposition will develop the disorder, indicating that other factors also play a role.
  • Brain Structure and Function: Abnormalities in certain areas of the brain, particularly the orbitofrontal cortex, basal ganglia, and thalamus, have been implicated in OCD. These areas are involved in regulating mood, anxiety, and behavior. Imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate, may also play a role.
  • Neurobiological Factors: There is some evidence to suggest that OCD may be associated with dysregulation in the brain’s serotonin system. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and medications that affect serotonin levels are often used to treat OCD.
  • Psychological Factors: Certain cognitive patterns and personality traits may contribute to the development or exacerbation of OCD. For example, individuals who are prone to anxiety, and perfectionism, or have a heightened sense of responsibility may be more susceptible.
  • Environmental Factors: Stressful life events, trauma, or major life changes may trigger the onset of OCD symptoms in individuals who are already predisposed to the disorder. However, not everyone who experiences stress will develop OCD.
  • Learned Behaviors: Some theories suggest that certain behaviors associated with OCD may be learned or reinforced over time. For example, if a person engages in compulsive rituals in response to anxiety and finds temporary relief, they may be more likely to repeat these behaviors in the future.

Signs and Symptoms


  • Obsessions are intrusive and unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that repeatedly enter a person’s mind. These thoughts can be distressing and often elicit anxiety. Common obsessions include fears of contamination, harming oneself or others, or fears of making a catastrophic mistake.


  • Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that an individual feels compelled to perform in response to their obsessions. These actions are intended to reduce anxiety or prevent a feared event from occurring. Examples of compulsions include excessive hand washing, checking, counting, or repeating specific rituals.

Impact on Daily Life:

  • One of the largest indicators of OCD is the impact it has on a person’s daily life. Individuals with OCD may find it challenging to concentrate on tasks, maintain relationships, or perform daily activities due to the time-consuming nature of their compulsions and the distress caused by their obsessions.

Getting Professional Help

If you suspect that you may have OCD or are experiencing symptoms consistent with the disorder, getting help from a professional can be life-changing. Mental health professionals are trained to assess and diagnose OCD. Diagnosis typically involves a comprehensive evaluation of symptoms, medical history, and a discussion of the impact of OCD on daily functioning.

Treatment Options for OCD

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

  • CBT is one of the most widely recognized and effective forms of psychotherapy for treating OCD. Specifically, a subtype known as Exposure and Response Prevention is often used. ERP involves exposing individuals to thoughts, images, or situations that trigger anxiety while preventing the accompanying compulsive behaviors. Over time, this helps individuals learn healthier ways of responding to their obsessive thoughts.


  • Antidepressant medications, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are commonly prescribed to alleviate symptoms of OCD. These medications work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, helping to regulate mood and reduce the intensity of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

Support Groups:

  • Joining a support group for people with OCD can provide comfort to those suffering. Sharing experiences with others who face similar challenges can be both validating and empowering. Many organizations, both online and in local communities, offer support groups for those with OCD and their families.

Final Thoughts

If you or someone you know is suffering from the symptoms of OCD, it is wise to get the opinion of a medical professional. Should this disorder be diagnosed, getting treatment as quickly as possible is important for proper mental health. Although compulsions and obsessions are uncomfortable, they don’t have to take over. Medication and therapy can help you feel a sense of normalcy again, despite the diagnosis.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you are struggling with OCD or other mental health issues, New Dimensions can help.  We provide evaluations and treatment in an intensive outpatient treatment setting.  To learn more about our treatment programs for mental health or substance abuse issues, visit our website at or contact us at 800-685-9796.



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