Signs and Symptoms of OCD

Early indications of OCD can be seen in children and teenagers. The disease usually begins gradually and worsens with age. Symptoms of OCD can be mild or severe. Some people have only obsessive thoughts without compulsive behavior.

Most people, especially children, do not perceive obsessions and compulsive behaviors as irrational or ridiculous. For example, children do not mind avoiding cracks in the sidewalk.

Although most adults brood over their problems at one time or another, they usually do so because their problems and solutions are meaningful to adult life. However, in adults with OCD, obsessions and compulsions often are excessive, disruptive, and unreasonable. The realization of this is characteristic of the disease and is accounted for in the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) criteria for diagnosis. Moreover, it distinguishes OCD from obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), once thought to be closely related to OCD. People with OCPD are usually undisturbed by their obsessive-compulsive behavior.

People with OCD often feel embarrassed and ashamed of their illness and rarely reveal their symptoms, if they can help it—hiding them from family and friends for years. These people recognize the absurdity of their behaviors, but without intervention, they often learn to live with them.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 01 Feb 2001

Last Modified: 12 May 2014