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What is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that they feel the urge to repeat over and over.

OCD affects up to 3% of people worldwide. A childhood onset form can start around 10 years of age, more commonly in boys than girls. Most of the remainder of people with OCD have their first symptoms before they turn 25, with women outnumbering men. OCD symptoms don’t usually develop after age 30.

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Mimi Winsberg, MD

Chief Medical Officer
Stanford-trained Psychiatrist with 25 years of practice

The signs & symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

People with OCD may have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions, or both. These symptoms can interfere with all aspects of life, such as work, school, and personal relationships.

Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety and fear. Common obsessions include:

  • Fear of germs or contamination
  • Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, or violence
  • Aggressive thoughts towards others or self
  • Having things symmetrical or in a perfect order

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought. Common compulsions include:

  • Excessive cleaning and/or handwashing
  • Ordering and arranging things in a particular and precise way
  • Repeatedly checking on things, such as checking multiple times to see if the door is locked or that the oven is turned off
  • Compulsive counting

OCD is a common and treatable condition, don’t wait to get the care you need.

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85%of Brightside members feel
better within 12 weeks
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How we treat obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Once a diagnosis has been established, obsessive-compulsive disorder is generally treated with therapy, medication, or both. Talk with your provider about the best treatment option for you.

Medication

Antidepressants are shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. At Brightside, we use your data and research to find the right medication for you.

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Therapy

We use evidence-based approaches to therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that are proven to be the most effective in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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Self-Care

A comprehensive approach to care leads to better outcomes. By practicing daily healthy habits and self-care, you can reduce your symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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Commonly prescribed medications.

At Brightside we prescribe over 30 different antidepressant medications. We’ll work with you to find the right medication for your individual needs and symptoms.

Affordable plans to help you feel better.

Starting as low as
$45 / for your first month.


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Whether you choose medication, therapy, or both, our memberships include expert online care designed to help you feel better, faster.

  • Comprehensive video evaluation
  • Personalized treatment plan
  • Unlimited messaging
  • Unlimited video follow-ups with your provider
  • 4 video sessions with your therapist each month
  • Free medication delivery
  • Interactive Therapy lessons
  • Regular progress tracking

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Getting started is simple.

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Step 1

Fill out a quick questionnaire.

Start by answering a clinically-proven set of questions, which will help us understand your symptoms and recommend a treatment plan with Medication, Therapy, or both.

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Step 2

Meet your provider & start treatment.

Within 48 hours, you’ll have a video consultation where you can share how you’re feeling and decide on next steps together. If prescribed, your medication will be delivered to your door monthly.

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Step 3

Make progress and feel better.

Unlimited messaging, video sessions, and regular check-ins help you stay in touch with your provider so they can monitor your symptoms and adjust until treatment is right for you.

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You’re in good hands. Our licensed providers are experts in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder.

  • Always see an expert psychiatric provider
  • All therapists hold a master’s degree or higher
  • Licensed in your state and background comprehensively checked
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Laura Purdy, MD

Psychiatrist
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Michael Chen, MD

Psychiatrist
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Frederica Boso, LMHC

Licensed mental health counselor

Life-changing results from real members.

Read More Reviews
Melissa K.

“A literal life saver. So convenient, so effective, and more involved/high touch than my former psychiatrist was. I should have done this a year sooner.”

Kayla S.

“Brightside has made such a huge improvement on my quality of life. The ease of access, the convenience of the med delivery, and the intelligent check in scoring system all contribute to a next level quality of care.”

Anonymous

“My provider has answered every question I’ve had, listened to worries and concerns and symptoms, assured me and is truly invested in my quality of care. I’ve gone from moderate-severe depression to mild depression in just 2 months.”

Rachael B

“I am so very grateful to have found Brightside. This is the most hopeful I have felt in maybe two years. Brightside isn't just working for me, it saved me. Brightside really turned may life around.”

Tyler K

“My life is so much better after starting with Brightside. My doctor truly cares about my well being and I’m just so grateful for this.”

Life-changing results from real members.

Melissa K.

“A literal life saver. So convenient, so effective, and more involved/high touch than my former psychiatrist was. I should have done this a year sooner.”

Kayla S.

“Brightside has made such a huge improvement on my quality of life. The ease of access, the convenience of the med delivery, and the intelligent check in scoring system all contribute to a next level quality of care.”

Anonymous

“My provider has answered every question I’ve had, listened to worries and concerns and symptoms, assured me and is truly invested in my quality of care. I’ve gone from moderate-severe depression to mild depression in just 2 months.”

Rachael B

“I am so very grateful to have found Brightside. This is the most hopeful I have felt in maybe two years. Brightside isn't just working for me, it saved me. Brightside really turned may life around.”

Tyler K

“My life is so much better after starting with Brightside. My doctor truly cares about my well being and I’m just so grateful for this.”

Read More Reviews

What you need to know.

How is obsessive-compulsive disorder diagnosed?

A mental health provider will diagnose OCD by asking you about the following three things:

  • Obsessive thoughts & compulsive behaviors
  • Mental or psychological distress
  • Consequences in important relationships, both at work and in your personal life

What are the risk factors of obsessive-compulsive disorder?

The causes of OCD are unknown, but risk factors include:

Genetics
Twin and family studies have shown that people who have a parent, sibling, or child with OCD are at a higher risk for developing OCD themselves. The risk is higher if the first-degree relative developed OCD as a child or teen. 

Brain structure
Brain imaging studies have shown differences in the frontal cortex and subcortical structures in patients with OCD. There appears to be a connection between the OCD symptoms and abnormalities in certain areas of the brain, but more research is needed to determine the specific connection. 

Environment
An association between childhood trauma and OCD symptoms has been reported in some studies. However, more research is needed to understand this relationship better.

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When to seek help for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

If you are experiencing obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors that are affecting your life, it may be time to seek professional help. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and figure out a plan together.

What are the treatment options for obsessive-compulsive disorder?

OCD can be treated using a combination of medication and a few different therapy approaches.

Medication
Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs), including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are used to help reduce OCD symptoms.

SRIs often require higher daily doses in the treatment of OCD than of depression and may take 8–12 weeks to start working. However, some patients do experience more rapid improvement.

Therapy
Certain types of therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other related therapies (e.g. habit reversal training), can be as effective as medication for many people living with OCD.

Research also shows that a type of CBT called Exposure and Response Prevention (EX/RP) may also be helpful. EX/RP consists of spending time in the very situation that triggers the compulsions, such as touching a dirty object. Then, you won’t be allowed to complete the usual compulsion, such as handwashing. This type of CBT is effective in reducing compulsive behaviors in OCD, even in people who did not respond well to SRIs.

Self-Care, Coping, and Support
Many treatment plans for OCD involve aspects of self-care. This can include:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercising on a regular basis
  • Managing stress & practicing mindfulness
  • Engaging in enjoyable/creative activities
  • Taking prescribed medications correctly and discussing any potential side effects with your healthcare providers
  • Watching for early signs that your symptoms may be worsening, and having a plan in place for how to respond if they do
  • Surrounding yourself with positive and supportive influences
  • Talking to trusted family members and friends about how you are feeling
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The Brightside difference.

We designed Brightside to deliver the best psychiatric care available.

Unlimited
access

Receive ongoing online care from hand-selected providers who are experts in treating anxiety & depression.

Precision-
prescribing

Data-driven prescribing that analyzes over 100 unique data points and decades of clinical research to pinpoint your match.

Science-backed
approaches

Build the skills needed to overcome anxiety and depression with an evidence-based approach to therapy that is proven to work.

Measured care for
better outcomes

Track your progress at every step, so you and your provider can make informed decisions and adjust your care until it’s right for you.

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