Introduction to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

What classifies a disorder as Obsessive-Compulsive?

Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders are characterized by the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions, and body-focused repetitive behaviors that preoccupy the mind.

What is the difference between an obsession and a compulsion?

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2013) describes obsessions and compulsions as follows:  “obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced as intrusive and unwanted”; and compulsions are “repetitive behaviors or mental acts that an individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.”

What are body-focused repetitive behaviors?

Body-focused repetitive behaviors include, but are not limited to, skin-picking, which is known as Excoriation Disorder; Trichotillomania, which is hair pulling; and mirror checking, which is a characteristic of Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

Names of the Disorders within the Class

Obsessive-Compulsive DisordersEach of these disorders has at least one common criterion:  “the disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2013).


Three specifiers are used when defining an Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorder diagnosis.  The first specifier is “with good or fair insight.”  This specifier is used when the individual recognizes that their obsessive-compulsive beliefs are either “definitely not true, probably not true, or that they may or may not be true” (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2013).  The second specifier is “with poor insight,” which is used when the individual thinks that their beliefs are probably true.  Finally, the “with absent insight/delusional beliefs” specifier is applied with the individual is completely convinced that their obsessive-compulsive beliefs are true (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2013).

Organization of this Blog Series

The Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders’ Blog Series will have three parts:  Part One will cover Obsessive-Compulsive, Excoriation, and Trichotillomania Disorders; Part Two describes Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Hoarding Disorder; and Part Three summarizes Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition, Other Specified Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorder, Substance/Medication-Induced Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorder, and Unspecified Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorder.

Click HERE to read the introduction to this blog series, Mental Health Diagnoses!, which covers how diagnosis using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual- 5 works.

Stay Tuned for Part One!


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA, American Psychiatric Association, 2013. Web. [access date: 8 July 2018].

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