OCD Facts and Statistics

OCD Facts and Statistics

OCD Facts and Statistical Data

Statistics are helpful benchmarks to categorize and compare our own ideas against the observations of others. Knowing OCD facts can help keep irrational ideas in perspective. However, keep in mind as you read these OCD facts, seeking profession assistance is the most effective way to overcome obsessions and compulsions

Overall OCD Facts and Statistics

  • It has been estimated approximately 2.3% of the population between ages 18- 54 suffer from OCD. Estimates are that one out every of forty to fifty people are affected by some form of obsession or compulsion.
  • The current numbers in the US approximate 3.3 million people suffer from OCD, though some estimates have been as high as 6 million. The variance comes from how patients are diagnosed and categorized.
  • OCD is found in all ethnic groups. Both men and women are equally affected, although in children, OCD seems to be more prevalent in boys.
  • A third to a half of all people who suffer from OCD began noticing obsessive traits during childhood and a fractional percentage as early as pre-school.
  • The average age for the onset for actual OCD symptoms is 19, though the awareness of OCD tendencies may have been prevalent at an earlier age.
  • New cases of obsessive compulsive disorder after the age of 40 are less common
  • According to the World Health Organization, anxiety disorders, like OCD, are more prevalent in developed countries than in developing countries, which indicates life style choices and environment to be factors leading to OCD

OCD Facts on Seeking Treatment

  • In the United States, approximately half the diagnosed OCD cases are considered severe
  • It is estimated that less than 10 % of those suffering from obsessions or compulsions will seek any kind of effective treatment.
  • 3 out of 4 people who complete psychotherapy feel it helped, but 1 in 4 will get symptoms again and will need extra treatment. About 1 in 4 people are not able to cope with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Delaying treatment in the hope symptoms will alleviate is an ineffective strategy to overcome OCD.
  • The average person with OCD will go 6 to 9 years before seeking any form of treatment. Many become obsessive in their research about OCD, to the point of prolonging help or treatment indefinitely.
  • Other reasons for delayed treatment are due to the perceived embarrassment or shame regarding what others may think about their OCD. Some have negative connotations about getting professional help.
  • While medications can impact the symptoms; most people will require other forms of intervention or therapy. Typical OCD treatments involve pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately the relapse rate of only using pharmaceuticals can be as high as 90%, which is why other therapies are required.
  • About 6 out of 10 people notice improvement with medication if they stay on the medication. This can be challenging if the medication produces side effects.
  • There is no cure for OCD since it is a disorder, not a disease or illness. That doesn’t mean it can’t be changed. Diseases are cured. Disorders require treatment which change, reorganize or restructure aspects of how the person processes thoughts and emotions. This allows them to begin operating more effectively or even stop obsessive tendencies.  
  • People with OCD are often diagnosed and misdiagnosed with other conditions, such as social anxiety, phobias, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, tourettes, Bi-polar, trichotillomania, generalized anxiety disorder, ADHD, ADD, Asperger syndrome, etc.OCD4

OCD Facts – Symptoms and Affects

  • Social and economic costs for OCD were estimated at $8.4 billion in 1990 OCD need not be a consistent condition and can change over time. There may be periods the symptoms minimize or disappear before they return. Others will notice a steady increase of intensity or frequency as time passes.
  • In England, the mean length of stay for hospitalization for OCD in 2002-03 was 50 days
  • OCD can impact the quality of life in many ways, including the pursuit of education, employment status, financial independence, ability to socialize, and self esteem.
  • OCD affects everyone differently, even when certain symptoms are more common.
  • Up to 60% of suffers of OCD will have no overt compulsions. This is often referred to as “pure-O”
  • The possibility of actually following through on an intrusive thought is extremely unlikely. This concern is one those with OCD can put aside
  • Those with compulsions perform tasks to temporarily relieve stress from mounting anxiety and urges
  • Those suffering from anxiety disorders tend to have a higher risk of substance abuse and addiction. It’s their way of coping with the general stresses of and intrusive thoughts.
  • OCD symptoms worsen with stress and fatigue.
  • There is no definite scientific evidence as to the cause of OCD. It used to be attributed to hereditary, others viewed it as a chemical imbalance and there are those who believe a big part of obsessive tendencies revolve around an inability to effectively cope with numerous types of stress as the real underlining issue
  • Leave a comment below on OCD facts or find more OCD information at:
    What you need to do to stop OCD
    Specific Symptoms of OCD
    (the most common symptoms pertaining to OCD
    General OCD symptoms 
    OCD facts and statistic were derived from US and British sources.Wang PS, Lane M, Olfson M, Pincus HA, Wells KB, Kessler RC. Twelve month use of mental health services in the United States. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2005 Jun;62(6):629-640.


  1. I don’t want to take drugs for my OCD, I am too sensitive to them side effects. Can this be done with zoloft or SSRI’s

    • If you read the fine print on most medications used for OCD, you will find some disclaimer that states “you should seek counselling as part of your therapy”. While medication may help some, medication does not address underlining emotional or mental traumas, sensitivities or wounds. Medication does not help you skill set to work through stress. It can put you in a different mindset, which again may be enough for some people, but if you have old wounds that are triggered by certain stressors or are lacking some skills to help you work through the issues at hand, the stresses probably will not be resolved.
      OCD is a complex challenge, but I am going use a simplistic analogy. If you are getting daily headaches you could take aspirin. Not good for the body, but it will give some relief. Yet constant headaches would be a signal something in the system of you is not supporting you, be it diet, physical or mental issues, etc. So you want to address those issues if possible.

  2. I’ve not been in a real positive place lately, as the OCD is so consuming. Counseling helps some, but so did the information on this page. Question, why do you think people wait so many years before getting help?

    • For many reasons, some of which are listed in the OCD Fact sheet above. These include the perceived embarrassment or shame over what others may think about their OCD or having negative connotations about getting professional help.

      You mention you haven’t been in a positive place as of late. While I don’t know exactly what you are experiencing, this is not uncommon for those troubled by obsessions. Whether OCD adds confusion, depression, anxiousness, or some other frame of mind or state of being, it is often enough to prolong seeking help. This seems strange to many in the general populous, but keep in mind OCD is a disorder not an illness. With an illness there is a greater tendency to get help, which not always the case with disorders.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. There are so much negative information on OCD out there, this site is a refreshing change. Book marked and really like your site! 🙂

  4. Your approach to dealing with obsessions are spot on. Actually got over my OCD (most of it) years ago, but finding the right person to work with did take time. Wish it would have be quicker, but still worth it

  5. Martina Mulligan

    Could Someone please advise if a person with ocd should aspire to be a teacher or can the ocd prove to be hindrance when it comes to dealing with a class of children say aged between 9 & 11 years – can the ocd prove to be a problem if mood swings and temperament seem to be volitile.


    • Many who are considered to be the “movers and shakers” of society have aspects or traits of obsessive thinking. For anyone who has some level of OCD, there are a couple of questions to ask. 1) To what extent does the person have OCD and 2) is the person willing to pursue treatment?

      I have had many clients who have had OCD and been successful teachers. Many with OCD can maintain a sense of themselves when in public, so while they may come off as a bit quirky at times, their behaviors are still acceptable by societal standards. Of course if you have something like an uncontrollable germ obsessions and can’t come in contract with others, this probably won’t work. Not all OCD is the same and the intensity can change over time

      Therapy should be considered if one has concerns about pursuing a career because of their mind set is teetering at the edge of their comfort zone. It can help.

  6. Thank you for your website!

    The manifestation of my OCD has changed over the past 20 years going from symmetry, door and light checking to illness, morality and aggression-sexuality contents. I am in my late 30s and also suffer from social phobia and generalized anxiety.

    One of my main obsessions is “Am I doing the right thing in order to heal from ocd and anxiety and be happy in the long run?”. Lately, as if OCD was trying to give all it could to survive, the following obsession also came up: “Is it right to try and get rid of OCD?” (if it came in the first place there was certainly a reason).

    The compulsions take the form of an internal debate aimed at answering the obsession with certainty. The obsession is always followed by: “Are you sure about this?”. This is by now actually helping me distinguishing between OCD and non-OCD thoughts, which in itself can sometimes become an obsession in itself (should I dismiss this thought or not?”). In case of extreme escalation, I also have to repeat or spell words internally in an assertive manner.

    I have been in therapy for years and have also been taking medication which I am almost free of by now. Recently the distress has reached such levels that I have no other choice but resisting carrying out any compulsion or else I won’t be able to go on fulfilling work and private life tasks (not an option for me).

    Past the initial discomfort of resisting compulsions, I have been feeling emotions never felt before which can manifest as great joy, anger or energizing drive to carry out tasks that OCD have made it difficult for me to complete in the past.

    How should I interpret those emotions within my OCD?

    • First see if can look at OCD as the symptom. This symptom can’t give you a true reading of yourself since part of its purpose is to distract you. It is why most people with OCD notice their obsessions and compulsions increasing when they are under stress.

      The very nature of OCD contains a huge amount of self mistrust. There is part of you trying to force you to think or do things the rest of you finds upsetting or repulsive. This already creates a cycle of not wanting to listen to internal messages your mind or emotions create. When someone is in this state of constant conflict, self trust is difficult, if not impossible. Your obsession seem to be directly reflecting this mistrust through doubt. It comes in the form of checking and questioning yourself.

      Since I don’t know what is going on in your therapy, it is hard to evaluate whether the new emotions your are experiencing are a sign that you are making progress and can begin to deal with the real issues underneath the obsessions or whether they are in anyway connected to other distractions created by the OCD. You really should be speaking to your therapist about these things.

      I hope this helps

  7. Very interesting fact page, thanks for that.
    At a very early age I developed OCD traits that have worsened over the years, finally getting diagnosed at the age of 15 I started taking medication and having CBT. I was also diagnosed with quite severe depression at the same time, and my pyschologist thought that the OCD was acting as a “barrier” to my depression. Is this possible? She basically told me that my OCD was me trying to protect myself from the depression. I however believe that my depression occured due to the stress of the OCD. After a few years of medication and therapy, my OCD symptoms almost vanished completely. A year later, they have appeared again. I am again on medication but it does not seem to be working as it did before. Is there a reason behind this? Have I developed an immunity to my medication? I wouldn’t think it was possible. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Sophie
      Is it possible for OCD to be a barrier to emotional set backs? Absolutely. If you can put the old paradigm of chemical imbalances aside (more and more professionals are), you can look at OCD as an unconscious distraction mechanism, which while effective, is not desirable.
      As for the effectiveness of your medication, you should be having this discussion with the doctor who prescribed them. One of the reasons people are told to take antidepressants and SRI’s at regular intervals is the process of starting and stopping them can have unpredictable results. It is not uncommon for medications to lose effectiveness on the second or third go round. Remember, these medications are not a cure, just coping mechanisms overriding and the mind and bodies natural tendencies.
      I suggest you also find a therapist who can assist you to work though your anxieties and stresses

  8. Great question. Realize when it comes to any type of health issues, most of the statistics are estimates. These estimates can be based from numerous sources and are not scientific, so take them with a grain of salt. But it is widely acknowledged that those with OCD (and a great number of other anxiety disorders) do not seek help and for various reasons. Many are ashamed of being different; some do not realize they have a problem until it is brought to their attention; some know they have a problem but don’t know how to articulate it; others are to proud to get help; some can’t afford help, some fear the social stigmas of getting therapy; etc. Unfortunately for those who do not seek help, they typically continue to suffer.


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