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Characteristic features of obsessive-compulsive disorder

Characteristic features

Obsessions are recurrent, intrusive thoughts, ideas or images or impulses that the person experiences as ego-dystonic and intensely distressing. One of the core characteristics of obsession in adults is that they are resisted. Resistance to obsessions and compulsions in children is, however, not always present. Common obsessions in childhood focus on contamination, harm or death, and symmetry. Compulsions are repetitive physical or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform in response to that obsession. The purpose of the compulsion is usually to reduce anxiety or magically prevent a dreaded event. Compulsive behaviour can become so extreme that it interferes with normal social functioning. Common examples are checking, touching, washing and repeating acts. The average age of onset is 7½ to 12½ years and is earlier in boys than in girls, and peaks firstly in adolescent and then in early adulthood. The male/ female ratio in childhood OCD is 3:2.

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