About 1 out of 50 adults in the United States currently has OCD, or about 3 million people; twice that many have had it at some point in their lives. Although OCD was once believed to be untreatable, advances in science over the last few decades have led to the development of very effective treatments. In fact, research indicates that the success rates for treating OCD are often much higher than for many other mental health problems.
Until recently, compulsive hoarding was believed to be a subtype of OCD. However, recent research suggests that although OCD and hoarding share some traits, they are in fact separate problems. Hoarding disorder involves considerable difficulties with getting rid of possessions due to beliefs about needing to save them and/or the distress that is caused by getting rid of them.
Individuals with BDD are preoccupied with one or more perceived flaws in their physical appearance that are not observable to others. In short, they do not see their appearance the way others do. These negative beliefs about appearance lead individuals with BDD to engage in a range of compulsive behaviors to try and improve or hide their appearance (i.e., excessive checking of appearance in the mirror, spending excessive amounts of time getting dressed, putting on make-up or styling hair, wearing certain types of clothes to cover up or disguise disliked parts of the body, seeking reassurance from others about physical appearance, skin picking to improve the appearance of skin). However, these efforts rarely succeed in eliminating appearance concerns.
Hair-pulling disorder, also sometimes referred to as trichotillomania, involves recurrent pulling out of one’s hair. The resulting hair loss from this behavior can be mild (a small area of thin or no hair on the scalp) to severe (no eye lashes or eyebrows, no hair remaining on the scalp). Hair is often pulled from the scalp or face, but can be pulled from anywhere on the body.
Skin-picking disorder involves repeated picking of the skin that results in sores or lesions. Symptoms can range from mild (a few open sores around the cuticles or on the face or extremities) to severe (numerous open sores that pose a risk of infection). Similar to hair pulling, individuals who struggle with these behaviors have often tried, unsuccessfully, to stop picking.
Although not formally considered an obsessive-compulsive or related disorder, tic disorders commonly co-occur with OCD and are also a focus of treatment at the Anxiety Center. Tic disorders can involve motor tics (i.e., eye blinking, neck and head movements, shoulder shrugging, movements of the hands, arms, and legs), vocal tics (i.e., throat clearing, sniffing, grunting, repeating words), or both.