Skip to Main Content

We have a new app!

Take the Access library with you wherever you go—easy access to books, videos, images, podcasts, personalized features, and more.

Download the Access App here: iOS and Android. Learn more here!

Key Features

  • The irrational idea or the impulse persistently intrudes into awareness

  • Obsessions (recurring anxiety-provoking thoughts such as fears of exposure to germs) and compulsions (repetitive actions such as washing the hands many times)

    • Are recognized by the individual as absurd and are resisted

    • However, anxiety is alleviated only by ritualistic performance of the action or by deliberate contemplation of the intruding idea or emotion

  • There is a high comorbidity with major depression

  • The prevalence in the general population is 2–3%

  • Male to female ratios are similar, with the highest rates occurring in the young, divorced, separated, and unemployed

Clinical Findings

  • Chronic disorder with a waxing and waning course

  • Many patients do not volunteer the symptoms and must be asked about them

  • There is an overlapping of OCD with other behaviors ("OCD spectrum"), including

    • Tics

    • Trichotillomania (hair pulling)

    • Excoriation (skin picking) disorder

    • Hoarding

    • Body dysmorphic disorder

  • Neurologic abnormalities of fine motor coordination and involuntary movements are common

  • Under extreme stress, these patients sometimes exhibit paranoid and delusional behaviors, often associated with depression, and can mimic schizophrenia


  • Clinical


  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and clomipramine (Table 25–7)

    • Fluoxetine (up to 60–80 mg orally daily)

    • Sertraline, paroxetine, and fluvoxamine are used with comparable efficacy, each with its own side-effect profile

  • Medications that be helpful as adjuncts to SSRIs in treatment-resistant cases include

    • Antipsychotics

    • Topiramate

    • Memantine

    • Riluzole

    • N-acetylcysteine

    • Lamotrigine

    • Ondansetron

    • Minocycline

    • Celecoxib

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation is FDA-approved for OCD

  • Deep brain stimulation is FDA approved on a humanitarian device exemption basis for patients with refractory OCD

  • Psychosurgery (eg, cingulotomy) has a limited place in selected cases of severe unremitting OCD

  • Patients may respond to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in which the patient learns to identify maladaptive cognitions associated with obsessive thoughts and to challenge them

  • Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy

    • A form of CBT

    • Patients work through a list of their obsessions and compulsions with their therapist, first exposing themselves to the trigger, then working to prevent the habitual thought or compulsion that accompanies it

    • There is evidence that both CBT or ERP combined with medications can be more effective than a single intervention alone

Table 25–7.Commonly used antidepressant medications (listed in alphabetical order within classes).

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.