About Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Most people will experience intrusive thoughts in their life. This might include the urge to wash your hands excessively, or to harm yourself or others when you do not truly want to. If these thoughts and your associated behaviors have seriously impacted your quality of life, you may suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. While these obsessions can be disturbing, a person with OCD is no more likely than other members of the population to act out in a harmful way.

A compulsion is any behavior performed for a sense of control over these obsessions. For example, you may wash your hands excessively if you are worried about contamination. Some compulsions are not obvious to others because they are performed mentally. If you have obsessions related to morality, you may replay previous events in your mind to evaluate whether you acted immorally. These behaviors may provide temporary relief, but they ultimately feed into the vicious cycle of obsessions and compulsions.

Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Because the nature of obsessions and compulsions varies so widely, it is common for people to not recognize these experiences as symptoms of OCD.

Obsessions associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder may include:

  • Fear of consequences if items, the situation, or oneself are not arranged “just right.”
  • Fear of contamination (e.g., dirt, germs, etc.).
  • Fixation on religious or moral behaviors/concerns (i.e., scrupulosity)
  • Hoarding or excessive saving of objects
  • Worry that you have or will act out in a violent or sexually taboo manner.

Compulsions associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder may include:

  • Avoiding situations related to your obsessions
  • Repetitive and excessive “checking” of locks, appliances, etc.
  • Ruminating (excessively dwelling) on past behaviors to satisfy your obsessions

Risk Factors for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

While the causes of OCD are complex, certain people are more likely to develop the condition.

Risk factors for obsessive-compulsive disorder may include:

  • Age: Condition onset is most common during adolescence
  • Family history: People with OCD often have a family member with the condition

Treating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder at UT Health Austin

The most effective treatment for OCD is exposure with response prevention (ERP), a form of psychotherapy in which you are gradually exposed to situations that prompt the desire to engage in compulsions. Over time, patients practice building distress-tolerance, work to manage obsessions/compulsions when they do occur, and engage more fully in life. You may also be prescribed medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to manage your symptoms and support therapy efforts. Your doctor will work with you to determine the best course of treatment.

Care Team Approach

At UT Health Austin, we take a multidisciplinary approach to your care. This means you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines caring for you in one place to avoid having to schedule multiple appointments with providers at locations all over the city. The Adult Psychiatry care team includes a psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, and psychologist who work together to help you get back to the things in your life that matter most to you.

Your initial appointments will be scheduled with the team’s psychiatrist to collect a comprehensive history, clarify presenting concerns, and discuss potential treatment options. If warranted, treatment recommendations may include ongoing psychiatric care provided by a psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) and/or behavioral therapy services provided by a psychologist.

We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to better address all aspects of your condition. At the Mulva Clinic for the Neurosciences, we create custom pathways to address you, the whole patient, by providing specialized treatment and management plans. Imaging and lab testing are also available on-site if needed.

Learn More About Your Care Team

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Adult Psychiatry

Health Transformation Building, 7th Floor
1601 Trinity Street, Bldg. A, Austin, Texas 78712
1-833-UT-CARES (1-833-882-2737)
Get Directions

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Mulva Clinic for the Neurosciences

Health Transformation Building, 7th Floor
1601 Trinity Street, Bldg. A, Austin, Texas 78712
1-833-UT-CARES (1-833-882-2737)
Get Directions