Causes & Effects of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

At Covington Behavioral Health, we believe education is an important first step in the effort to heal from OCD. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of OCD can help you get the right type and level of care for yourself or a loved one.

Understanding OCD

Learn about OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) causes a person to suffer from persistent anxious thoughts and urges to engage in compulsive behaviors. These recurrent anxious thoughts are not able to be ignored, even when the individual attempts to do so. Obsessive behaviors can include checking items such as doors, locks, or appliances; counting, moving in a repetitive motion, or repeating words. The anxieties are not actually solved by the obsessive actions, and sometimes the obsessions and the compulsions do not appear to be connected in a logical manner.

Evidence shows that it is possible to get the right support to treat OCD and experience positive results. With the help that is available at Covington Behavioral Health, a better life can be built with treatment.


OCD statistics

The American Psychological Association, or APA, reports that 1.2% of U.S. residents are diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder each year. Women are more likely to develop the disorder as adults, whereas males are more likely to have it in childhood or adolescence. About 76% of those diagnosed with OCD also experience an anxiety disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for OCD

Significant discovery remains to be done regarding the causes of OCD. However, some risk factors have been established:

Genetic: Obsessive-compulsive disorder does have a hereditary component. Adult-onset OCD in a close family member can double a person’s risk for developing the disorder. Childhood-onset OCD in a close family member increases an individual’s risk tenfold.

Environmental: OCD is more likely to develop in a child who has experienced trauma, violence, or abuse at some point. Some infections and auto-immune disorders also cause an increased risk of OCD.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal history of childhood trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Inhibited behavior
  • Negative thoughts and emotions
  • History of internalizing or hiding emotions

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of OCD

The obsessions and compulsions that are manifested are different in each individual case. Hence, symptoms will vary. Some of the indicators are the following:

Symptoms of obsessions: Even the person who suffers from OCD might recognize his or her thinking and actions as excessive. Yet, he or she struggles to stop acting in ways that show fear of:

  • Lack of order or symmetry
  • Unappealing ideas
  • Disharmony with practices and beliefs of religion
  • Illness and injury
  • Potentially traumatizing events
  • Germs, dirt, or contamination

Symptoms of compulsions: Obsessive thinking may not be logically related to the compulsive behaviors that result in an effort to stop it, such as the following:

  • Ordering and organizing
  • Counting numbers or items
  • Constant hand-washing or cleaning
  • Repeatedly checking on objects such as locks, burners or switches
  • Avoiding certain places or situations
  • Repeating some words or phrases aloud


Effects of OCD

OCD are unlikely to dissipate without treatment. The negative effects of prolonged experience with OCD without treatment include the following:

  • Financial problems
  • Difficulty maintaining employment
  • Employment of educational program termination
  • Substance use disorder
  • Strained relationships
  • Suicidal thinking or desires
  • Physical evidence of compulsive behaviors, such as damaged skin from excessive washing
  • Worsening of symptoms
  • Onset of additional mental health disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

OCD and co-occurring disorders

It is common to struggle with the following disorders alongside OCD:

  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Trichotillomania
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Excoriation (skin-picking) disorder

It might feel like it is impossible to recover from OCD because of the presence of these disorders, but that is not the case. Many of these co-existing conditions can be treated effectively at the same time. Any person with OCD can benefit from the help of a dedicated, licensed team of mental health and medical professionals, along with the right individualized treatment plan. With supportive help, recovery may not be far away.

Prior to treatment, my life was not only unmanageable, it was unlivable. Covington Behavioral Health Hospital helped provide me with a full, meaningful life. Thank you!

– a former patient
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