When people think of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), they may picture someone with a fear of germs, a person meticulously straightening a crooked picture frame, or someone arranging a collection of shoes by color in a painfully well-organized closet. We tend to laugh at these images in the media, but as clinicians we know that OCD is much more than a quirky character trait. In fact, OCD can be quite serious, and most people with the disorder aren’t laughing about it. OCD is highly impairing, and nearly two-thirds of those with the disorder suffer in nearly every major life domain, including family life, social life, annd work or school.
People with OCD have almost four times the unemployment rate of the general population due to the disabling nature of symptoms. In fact, OCD is considered one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.
OCD comes in many varieties, therefore each person’s symptom presentation may be different, and these presentations can change over time. Nonetheless, decades of research seem to point to four specific symptom dimensions that describe most OCD sufferers.
People with OCD may have worries in one or all of these areas, although in our clinical experience most people have one major area of concern with smaller worries in one or two other areas. Because the wide range of symptom presentations, OCD is often misdiagnosed in doctor’s offices and even among licensed mental health professionals.