Obsessive-compulsive disorder (often shortened to OCD) is an anxiety disorder that causes repeated and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and actions (compulsions). Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms and can lead the individual to believe that if a task is not completed, something bad may happen. Such a task may be washing hands five times. This belief leads to more anxiety and tension. OCD can limit one's ability to take part in relationships, the workplace, and in society in general.
The causes of OCD are not fully known. There seem to be certain predispositions (things that make a person more likely to have OCD). There also seem to be problems with certain neurotransmitters (chemical signals in the brain), especially serotonin. Certain mutations of genes may also influence OCD. Treating OCD is difficult because of this. Drugs that influence these neurotransmitters sometimes help, as well as drugs mainly used to treat depression.
Behavior therapy can teach those with OCD how to control it. In this type of therapy, a person learns how to relax and deal with anxiety; they gradually face the things that make them anxious; and they learn to react less and less to those things. Use of drugs such as Prozac and Zoloft may also be prescribed by a physician to treat a patient with OCD. Physicians may use both medication and counseling for those with the disorder, and they find that this approach works best.