OCD: The Leading Cause of Disability Worldwide

By user:Unsplash [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

According to information from the World Health Organization, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), is one of the leading types of disability in the developed world. The disorder is characterized by recurrent disturbing emotional behaviors and obsessive behaviors. People with OCD will usually try to dismiss or explain away an obsession or avoid situations that trigger these thoughts, but the compulsion is a short-term fix that winds up fueling the cycle of OCD.

More than 6 million people in the United States are currently living with obsessive compulsive disorder and many of them go undiagnosed and receive no treatment. OCD isn’t a rare disorder, it affects more individuals than schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or panic disorder. However, in severe cases of OCD, it can be very disabling, particularly when the compulsions become time-consuming and interfere with daily life. People with OCD will sometimes not be able to go to work or school because of the rituals associated with OCD.

The Cause(s)of OCD

The underlying cause or causes of obsessive compulsive disorder aren’t fully understood. The symptoms of the disorder are rooted in the circuitry of the brain, and serotonin circuits are dysregulated in some people with OCD. Research has shown that there’s a genetic link to OCD, so individuals with a family history of the disorder or tic disorders, such as Tourette’s are at a higher risk.

OCD affects individuals from all backgrounds, males and females of any age. The onset of obsessive compulsive disorder occurs at two occasions during the lifespan, either during childhood or during the later teens and in young adulthood. While the symptoms of OCD can appear gradually over time, occasionally children experience an abrupt onset of OCD, which is believed to be linked to an immunological response or infection.

Traditional Treatment of OCD

There are two types of treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder that are based on solid, scientific evidence: cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy.

The specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy used for treating OCD, is referred to as exposure and response prevention. In some situations, a therapist will go to a patient’s home, office or wherever it is the person experiences OCD triggers. Even though obsessive compulsive disorder can be debilitating, with the proper treatment from experienced caregivers, most people with the disorder can experience dramatic improvement, gain a sense of relief from the symptoms and control the condition.


Thanks to advances in imaging and other technologies, it’s a fascinating time for obsessive compulsive disorder research. There are currently many neuroimaging studies involving OCD that suggest a connection between the regions of the brain are different in individuals with OCD. Once medical science understands which underlying brain circuits have gone awry, they can begin to understand what kind of interventions should be more specific to OCD. There is also a big push to figure out which genes contribute to OCD, which will help lead to improved medication treatment options.

ocd self test
Do you or a loved one feel like you might have a problem with OCD? Take the Self Test now to get more information.

The information provided on brainphysics.com is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of brainphysics.com nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Click here to read our complete Terms of Use.

Susbscribe to our free newsletter for information & inspiration


BrainPhysics.com Social