Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


  • Obsessive (ub-ses-iv) compulsive (kum-pul-siv) disorder or "OCD" is an anxiety disorder. An obsession is an unwanted thought that stays in your mind most of the time. You cannot stop or control this thought. A compulsion is something you do and cannot stop doing because of the obsessive thought.

  • You may become very anxious if you try to stop the compulsion. You may have this problem for many years. OCD may affect how you feel about yourself and your life. But, OCD can be treated with counseling and medicine. Rarely, you may need to go into the hospital for treatment.


  • Keep a written list of what medicines you take and when and why you take them. Bring the list of your medicines or the pill bottles when you see your caregivers. Ask caregivers for information about the medicines.

  • Always take your medicine as directed by caregivers. Call your caregiver if you think the medicines are not helping or if you feel you are having side effects. Do not stop taking your medicine when you feel better. And, ask how long you will need to take the medicine.

  • You may need blood tests once you start taking medicine for OCD. These tests are used to check how much medicine is in your blood. Caregivers use the results of these tests to decide how much medicine is right for you. You may need to have these blood tests more than once.

  • Taking vitamins is very important because many people do not eat a healthy diet. Check with your caregiver before you start taking vitamins to make sure they are the best ones for you. Always tell your caregivers if you are taking any herbs, like St John's Wort or other food supplements.

  • Do not use any medicines that are not ordered for you by your caregiver. Do not drink alcohol while taking medicine for OCD.

  • Do not drive or use heavy equipment if you are taking medicine that makes you drowsy.

Medicine Monitoring:

Each time you meet with your caregivers, they will ask you about how you are feeling. Caregivers watch how you respond to your medicines. Also, tell caregivers about side effects or problems you may be having with your medicine. Sometimes caregivers have to change how much or the type of medicine you take. The goal is for you to feel better with the least amount of side effects. Your caregiver will also talk about how long you may need the medicine.


Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.


  • Accepting that you have OCD is hard. You and those close to you may feel angry, sad, or frightened. These are normal feelings. Talk to your caregivers, family, and friends about your feelings. Write down questions you have about OCD and how it is treated. This way you will be able to ask them during your next visit to the caregiver.

  • Ask your health care provider if they know about books that you can read. Reading about your illness might help you better understand it.

  • You may also want to join a support group. This is a group of people who also have OCD. Ask your caregiver for the names and numbers of support groups in your town. You can also call or write one of the following national organizations for more information.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    3803 N. Fairfax Dr., Suite 100
    Arlington , VA 22203
    Phone: 1- 703 - 524-7600
    Phone: 1- 800 - 950-6264
    Web Address: http://www.nami.org
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Public Information & Communication Branch
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
    Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
    Web Address: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/
  • Obsessive Compulsive Foundation, Inc.
    676 State Street
    New Haven , CT 06511
    Phone: 1- 203 - 401-2070
    Web Address: http://www.ocfoundation.org

Types of Therapeutic Sessions:

  • Couples Therapy: You and your significant other meet with a caregiver to talk about how to cope with your illness. Your significant other may be your spouse (husband or wife) or a boyfriend or girlfriend.

  • Family Meetings: Your caregivers will meet with you and your family. You will talk about how to cope with your illness.

  • Group Therapy: A series of meetings that you attend with other patients and staff. During these meetings, patients and staff talk together about ways to cope with illness.

  • Individual Therapy: A time for you to meet alone with your therapist. During this time you and your therapist may talk about how to cope with your illness.

Types of Therapy Approaches:

  • Behavioral Modification: teaches you how to change your behavior (actions). You will look at the reasons for your behavior and the results of your actions. With behavior "mod" therapy, you learn that certain behaviors have good or bad results. These results may make you feel either good or bad about yourself. Good behavior makes most people feel good about themselves. Good behaviors are often rewarded.

  • Cognitive Therapy helps to make you aware of how you see things. You may have trouble seeing the good in things around you. Then you are more likely to feel depressed, sad or angry. Cognitive therapy teaches you to learn how you see things in a more positive way.

  • Exposure/Desensitization (d-sen-tuh-ti-za-shun) Therapy. Exposure therapy helps you to face your fears in a safe setting with caregivers there to support and help you. After you have practiced ways to decrease your fear and anxiety you are better able to handle your fears when alone. Desensitization is when caregivers help you practice facing a fear a little at a time. This is taught in a supportive and safe setting.

  • Relaxation is another way to focus your attention on something other than your feelings. For instance, good smells may change your mood and help you relax. Good smells may also help your brain make special chemicals called endorphins (n-door-fins). Endorphins are a natural body chemical that can decrease bad feelings and pain. For example, listening to music or taking a bath with aromatherapy (uh-ro-muh-thair-uh-p) oils. Candles, massage oils, and scented bubble baths are ways that smells can be used.

Wellness Hints:

  • Eat healthy foods from all of the 5 food groups: fruits, vegetables, breads, dairy products, meat and fish. Eating healthy foods may help you feel better and have more energy. Ask your caregiver if you need to be on a special diet.

  • Drink 6 to 8 (soda pop can size) glasses of liquid each day. Or, follow your caregiver's advice if you must change the amount of liquid you drink. Good liquids to drink are water, juices, and milk. Limit the amount of caffeine you drink. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, and soda.

  • Do not drink alcohol while taking medicine for OCD. Alcohol can make you feel depressed or anxious (worried and upset). It can also upset your sleep cycle so you feel more tired. You should also not take any street or illegal drugs.

  • Talk to your caregiver before you start exercising. Together you can plan the best exercise program for you. Exercising can make the heart stronger, lower blood pressure, and keep you healthy. But, if you have a compulsion with exercise, exercising can make you worse. Listen to your caregiver.

  • It is never too late to quit smoking if you smoke. Smoking harms the heart, lungs, and the blood. You are more likely to have a heart attack, lung disease, and cancer if you smoke. You will help yourself and those around you by not smoking. Ask your caregiver for the CareNotes™ handout on how to stop smoking if you are having trouble quitting.

  • Stress may slow healing and cause illness later. Since it is hard to avoid stress, learn to control it. Learn new ways to relax (deep breathing, relaxing muscles, meditation, or biofeedback). Talk to your caregiver about things that upset you.

  • Regular sleep is very important. Try to get 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Tell your caregiver if you are not able to sleep or if you are sleeping too much.


  • You have questions or concerns about OCD or your medicine.

  • You cannot follow the treatment plan given to you.

  • You are not able to sleep well or are sleeping more than usual.

  • You cannot eat or are eating more than usual.

  • You cannot make it to your next meeting with your caregiver.


  • You think about committing suicide (killing yourself) or homicide (someone else).

  • You have very bad side effects, such as rash, swelling, or trouble breathing after taking medicine.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Discharge Care)