Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, treatable mental health issue that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by obsessions, which are repeated, unwanted, intrusive thoughts, and compulsions, which are behaviors aimed at reducing the discomfort associated with these thoughts. Compulsions (a.k.a. rituals) can be physical, such as washing or cleaning, or they can be mental or covert, such as excessive analysis, reassurance seeking, or thought-neutralizing strategies.

A disorder is not a character flaw or personality defect. A disorder is simply something that is out of order. We all have unwanted thoughts from time to time and we all have rituals that save us time and energy. When this “normal” experience of coping with unwanted thoughts and rituals begins to impair functioning, causes severe anxiety, takes up significant time, and steals the enjoyment from work, leisure, and relationships, then we call it a dis-order. Fortunately this disorder is well understood and research over the years has provided us with safe and effective evidenced-based therapies that can help develop mastery over OCD.

Common OCD-Related Concerns That We Treat:

Hyper-responsibility OCD

Common obsessions: fear of making a mistake, causing a tragedy
Common compulsions: excessive checking of light switches, stove, appliances

Just Right OCD

Common obsessions: fear of not being able to tolerate specific feelings
Common compulsions: repeating routine behaviors, arranging/ordering, checking/repeating writing and reading, homework, or work tasks

Hypochondria / Health Anxiety 

Common obsessions: fear of having or catching illnesses
Common compulsions: checking body for symptoms, excessive googling/researching symptoms, excessive reassurance seeking or avoidance of medical professionals/procedures

Religious and Moral Scrupulosity OCD

Common obsessions: fear of religious blasphemy or of exercising faith inadequately, fear of being morally imperfect
Common compulsions: compulsive prayer, excessive review of religious concepts, avoidance of triggering situations, excessive attention to issues of honesty or morality, excessive mental review of perceived mistakes

Hyper-awareness OCD

Common obsessions: fear of not being able to stop attending to breathing, blinking, swallowing, thinking, or other semi-voluntary behaviors
Common compulsions: checking for awareness, excessive distracting, reassurance seeking about symptoms or about what is normal


Common obsessions: focused fear of specific triggers, such as throwing up (emetophobia), small spaces (claustrophobia), open spaces (agoraphobia), specific animals or environments
Common compulsions: avoiding triggers directly or indirectly, various rituals designed to feel certain that triggers will not occur

Social Anxiety

Common obsessions: fear of being evaluated negatively by others, fear of public speaking, fear of being humiliated in public, fear of not being able to connect with others socially
Common compulsions: avoidance of social situations, mental review of social interactions, excessive comparison of self to others

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Common obsessions: fear of being unattractive or of having a physical deformity
Common compulsions: excessive weighing, mirror checking, ritualized eating, checking of specific body parts

Panic Disorder

Common obsessions: presence of panic attacks and fear of having panic attacks
Common compulsions: avoiding situations that could trigger attacks, avoiding environments that do not have easy escapes

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Common obsessions: excessive and impairing fear/worry associated with everyday issues such as work, finance, relationships and responsibilities, fear of becoming anxious
Common compulsions: mental review, reassurance seeking, over-preparing, perfectionism, avoiding situations that may produce anxiety

How We Treat OCD and Anxiety:

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

Exposure and Response Prevention

Gradually confronting fears while resisting compulsive responses.

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Identifying and challenging distorted thinking that leads to compulsions.

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Skill Development

Paying attention to the present moment without judging thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

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Jon Hershfield, MFT

hershfield-80x90Director of The OCD and Anxiety Center of Greater Baltimore and specialist in the treatment of OCD and related disorders.
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Brenda Kijesky, LGMFT

Licensed Graduate Marriage and Family Therapist, treating children and adults with OCD and related disorders.
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Molly Schiffer, LGPC

Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor, treating children, adolescents, and adults with OCD and related disorders.
Learn more about Molly Schiffer

Recent Articles

Latest News/Upcoming Events

April 5-8 at The Anxiety and Depression Association of America Conference 2018 in Washington, D.C.

“Clinician, Feel Thyself!” workshop on therapist self-care with Elspeth Bell and Jon Hershfield

April 5-8 at The Anxiety and Depression Association of America Conference 2018 in Washington, D.C.

“When Treatment is an Exposure for Therapists: Managing Dangerous Presentations in Patients with OCD” workshop on ERP challenges with Charles Brady, Patrick McGrath, Amy Jacobsen, and Jon Hershfield

April 26 at ADAA Professional Webinar online.

“Who Should I Treat? Specialization vs. Generalization in Clinical Practice” with Denise Egan Stack, Andrea Batton, and Jon Hershfield