Worries, doubts, and superstitious beliefs all are common in everyday life. However, when they become so excessive as to interrupt one's daily life, then the diagnosis is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, causes people to suffer in silence and isolation and it can destroy a persons" ability to live a normal everyday life. It may bring on shame, ridicule, anger, and intolerance from friends and family. This illness can affect people of any race, gender, or ethnic group and in any occupation. "Anxiety is at the root of OCD, which affects about 2.4 percent of the U.S. population in any given year." (Bernstein 2002) The Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary defines OCD as follows; OCD is a disorder characterized by recurrent obsessions or compulsions that are severe enough to be time consuming or cause marked distress or significant impairment. .
The American Psychiatric Association defines the obsessions as "constant, intrusive, unwanted thought that causes distressing emotions such as anxiety or disgust." Common thoughts include persistent fears that harm may come to self or a loved one, an unreasonable concern with becoming contaminated, or an excessive need to do things correctly or perfectly. These thoughts are intrusive, unpleasant, and produce a high degree of anxiety. Often the obsessions are of a violent or a sexual nature, or concern illness.
Compulsions are defined as "urges to do something to lesson discomfort, usually discomfort that is caused by an obsession."(American Psychiatric Association 1999) The most common of these compulsions are washing and checking (e.g., checking to make sure that they lock the door). Other compulsive behaviors include counting, repeating, hoarding, and endlessly rearranging objects in an effort to keep them in precise alignment with each other. These behaviors generally are intended to ward off harm to the person with OCD or others.