8 Early Signs of OCD to Take Seriously

This destructive disorder can creep up on people. Familiarize yourself with the early symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder to help protect loved ones—and yourself.

Catching OCD early

You’ve seen the exaggerated signs of OCD in TV shows and movies (think Monk or Rain Man). But there are subtle signs that people just accept as routine behaviors that are actually symptoms of OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. The disorder is distressingly common: It hits about 2.2 million American adults—about 1 percent of the population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). It’s one of the top 20 causes of illness-related disability. Worldwide, one in 40 adults and one in 100 children have a diagnosis of OCD, according to the World Health Organization. Yet only roughly a third of people with this disorder are getting treatment, according to the ADAA, because of the subtle nature of symptoms. Knowing these signs can help empower you to get treatment before the symptoms become unmanageable.

What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is relatively easy to understand, given the name. The obsession part is characterized by intrusive, repetitive, and unwanted thoughts. Compulsion comes in with actions or behaviors you engage in to try to control your obsessive thoughts, according to Psychology Today. These actions can give sufferers momentary relief, but the anxious thoughts usually return. Typically, the condition kicks in when sufferers are around 19 years of age. However, a third of adults first show signs in childhood; 25 percent of cases are diagnosed by age 14. This condition can be difficult to pick up in kids—parents may assume that the symptoms are a normal part of growing up, or that the behavior is part of a child’s personality. Both genders are equally likely to develop OCD.

What causes OCD?

Having certain disorders—such as Parkinson’s disease, tumors, or schizophrenia—may raise a person’s risk, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some research indicates that there may also be a genetic link to the disorder. Certain life events can trigger OCD, such as a strep infection, a difficult birth, and even chronic insomnia.

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