When and Why Does OCD Begin?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder generally begins in childhood, as early as preschool, or adolescence, but can begin in adulthood, generally no later than forty years of age. The exact causes of OCD are not known. It is thought by some experts that if you have OCD you tend to overreact to anxiety-borne thoughts, because of personality traits. This thinking is the beginning of a vicious cycle, that starts because you are upset by your overreaction, then try to suppress the threatening thoughts. Trying to dodge or bury the thoughts leads to an obsession with that specific thought. When you engage in compulsive actions and feel your anxiety lessen, you are reinforced to repeat the action.


Tourette's disorder and tic disorder are thought to be closely connected. In both Tourette's disorder and tic disorder, the person has multiple motor and vocal tics. The tics involve repeated involuntary movement of the head, torso, and upper and lower limbs. The vocal tics are grunts, yelps, barks, sniffs and can involve yelling obscenities, without being able to stop.

Other factors that are suspected in the development of OCD are genetics, as OCD tends to run in families. Studies show a link between having family members with Tourette's disorder or tic disorder and developing OCD. Research also suggests a connection to some infectious diseases such as streptococcal infections, and herpes simplex virus. Biological research is looking at the possibility of low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in people with OCD, as well as abnormal functioning of brain circuitry.

Studies are ongoing to determine the causes, treatment, and prevention of obsessive-compulsive disorder. But even without a definite cause, treatment options exist that have shown promise for both children and adults, enabling them to reduce symptoms and lead more productive, satisfied lives.

  1. Home
  2. Controlling Anxiety
  3. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  4. When and Why Does OCD Begin?
Visit other About.com sites: