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Anxiety and OCD-related Disorders

You can learn more about the anxiety and OCD disorders that we treat below.  You can also find additional information on our Anxiety Blog and in the Helpful Links section.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
One of the most common mental health problems, OCD has been popularized on TV shows such as Oprah, Hoarders, and The OCD Project.  Once thought rare, we now know that OCD affects about 3 out of every 100 people, making it the fourth most common mental disorder.  About half of those with OCD develop their symptoms in childhood.

As the name suggests, OCD consists of two main symptoms:  unwanted, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and compulsive behaviors (compulsions) that reduce the anxiety and distress associated with obsessive thoughts.

Common symptoms of OCD include:

  • Violent, sexual or blasphemous thoughts that lead to avoidance, reassurance-seeking or other behaviors (also known as "Pure O" OCD)
  • Fears of contamination (i.e., AIDS, germs, or other contaminants) often resulting in excessive washing, cleaning, or avoidance.
  • A need for symmetry that leads to ordering or arranging compulsions
  • Hoarding of unneeded items that causes interference in the use of living or work space
  • Checking OCD that results from excessive doubt (checking locks, driving back to see if you caused an accident)
  • "Just right" OCD which leads to compulsive behaviors that are repeated until they feel right

Panic Disorder
A panic attack--or anxiety attack--is a sudden rush of intense fear that usually last 10-15 minutes.  Panic attacks usually come with strong physical symptoms that can include:

  • racing heart
  • lightheadedness
  • dizziness
  • sweating
  • numbness
  • tingling in fingers and toes  

If you have a panic attack, you might believe you're experiencing a heart attack, dying, going crazy or about to pass out. The overall sense is "something bad is happening to me" and you might feel a strong need to escape or flee.  Panic attacks often seem to come "out of the blue".

If you have a panic attack and then you begin to avoid certain places or situations out of fear of another attack, you might have what's known as agoraphobia.  Agoraphobia commonly occurs with panic attacks and typical situations that you might avoid include driving, flying, elevators, movie theaters and public transportation.  The common factor in all of these is escape feels difficult or impossible.

Social Anxiety Disorder
As the name suggests, social anxiety refers to a strong and persistent fear of social situations.  Social anxiety is a common mental health problem, affecting about 7% of adults.  If you suffer from social anxiety, you know that you feel more than just shy.  While shyness is mild and rarely interferes with a person's life, social anxiety is more severe and makes it difficult to fully enjoy life.  Making new friends, going on dates, public speaking and job interviews are all impacted by social anxiety disorder.  If you suffer from social anxiety disorder, you might experience physical symptoms such as blushing, trembling, sweating, and even panic attacks (see above) before or during social events.

There are two main types of social anxiety:  performance and generalized.  WIth performance anxiety, you might feel quite comfortable talking one on one.  However, the prospect of public speaking--such as giving a presentation--causes intense anxiety and avoidance.  In contrast, those who suffer from the generalized type of social anxiety disorder experience anxiety in most or all social situations.

Selective Mutism
Selective Mutism is characterized by the inability to communicate in certain specific social situations.  These situations often include school, after school activities, talking with strangers, or out in public (ie, ordering a meal at a restaurant).  The ability to communicate is present in other situations where anxiety is much less, such as at home or with specific friends.  Selective mutism is often considered a form of social anxiety and many people with selective mutism also suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder.  Selective mutism is often first diagnosed in younger children.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (or GAD) is the clinical term for those who experience excessive anxiety and worry. If you suffer from excessive worry,  you'll likely experience physical symptoms such as muscle tension, insomnia, headaches, stomach aches, fatigue and irritability.  GAD consists of excessive worry about several different areas of your life, such as finances, relationships, health, school, or work.  As a result of these worries, you might find you engage in behaviors such as reassurance-seeking, checking or ordering.  Like most anxiety disorders, GAD is common in both adults and children.

Health Anxiety Disorder
If you suffer from health anxiety--also known as hypochondriasis--it means you experience a persistent fear about being seriously or terminally ill, when no or few symptoms of illness are present.  You might view normal bodily sensations such as aches and pains as being dangerous and life threatening.  This fear continues despite reassurance from friends, spouses and doctors.  You might also undergo extensive medical testing and procedures--or avoid these all together--to cope with your fears.  Common health-related fears include cancer, heart disease and AIDS.

Trichotillomania and other Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRB's)
Trichotillomania is the clinical term for compulsive hair pulling.  If you suffer from Trichotillomania--or Trich as it's commonly called--it means you habitually pluck your own hair to the point that it causes bald patches. People with trich might pull hair from their head, arms, eyebrows, eyelashes, public area or legs.  Research shows that trich is a common problem, affecting about 1.5% of men and 3.5% of women.  The embarrassment and shame related to pulling often leads to avoidance of situations where others might see the bald spots.  Often, a person with trich goes to great lengths to hide the hair loss.  To learn more about trich, please visit trich.org

Related disorders include skin-picking, nail biting and cheek biting.  These disorders are similar to trich in many ways. Because of this similarity, these problems are now classified together in a group known as Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRB's)

Tic Disorders and Tourette's Syndrome
A tic is a sudden and recurrent motor movement or vocalization that's often experienced as difficult to resist but also can be suppressed at times. Tics may increase during times of stress and decrease when relaxed.  Common motor tics include: grimacing, coughing, blinking, neck jerking or rolling and nose wrinkling.  Common vocal tics include:  grunting, throat clearing, sniffing or snorting and barking.  Both motor and vocal tics can consist of more complex behaviors as well, such as multiple motor movements or repeating words or phrases out of context.  Tourette's Disorder occurs when a person has both multiple motor tics and one or more vocal tics.  Tic Disorders and Tourette's commonly occur with OCD and other anxiety disorders, especially in children.   

The term hoarding refers to both the acculmulation of possessions as well as difficulty discarding items.  These possessions are often viewed by others as worthless or useless.  To the person with the possessions, these items typically either have sentimental value or they are kept in case they are needed in the future.  One important feature of hoarding is that it causes distress that interferes with life in some way.  Common ways hoarding behaviors interfere are by disrupting the functional space in a home, office or car, causing conflicts in relationships, or creating financial difficulties.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, is a disorder of distortion in perception about appearance in which a minor or perceived flaw is viewed as devastating.  If you suffer from BDD, you'll anxiously focus on the aspect of your appearance you view as flawed.  Often, those with BDD seek reassurance from others, avoid social interactions, and go to great lengths to conceal the aspect of their appearance that troubles them.  Body dysmorphic disorder can center on any aspect of appearance, including the shape of body parts, hair or complexion.  It's not uncommon for those with BDD to seek unnecessary or ineffective plastic surgery or cosmetic treatments.


Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by low body weight coupled with a fear of gaining weight or being fat.  Those with anorexia often restrict food intake, overexercise, or use purging strategies such as self-induced vomiting, laxatives, and diuretics to control their weight.  Despite these efforts and a low body weight, those with anorexia still often feel overweight.  Body weight and shape often becomes a primary source of self-esteem and self-worth, which leads to further attempts to lose weight and improve body image.  Unfortunately, these efforts can become serious and life threateing, as maintaining a low body weight becomes detrimental to your health in the long term.

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by binging (eating unusually large amounts of food while feeling like you can't stop).  These episodes often result in feelings of guilt and shame, along with concern about weight gain from over eating.  These feelings can lead to the use of purging strategies such as skipping meals, dieting, excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting, and laxative use.  Similar to anorexia, bulimia is accompanied by fears of gaining weight and body dissatisfaction.  In addition feelings of shame and isolation, the cycle of binging and purging can have significant negative effects on health.

Binge Eating Disorder

The term Binge Eating Disorder (BED) refers to symptoms of intense cravings for food which leads the person to binge eat.  Binges are different from occasional overeating in that in BED, binges are characterized by a sense of a loss of control over eating.  In addition, during binge eating, the person often eats more rapidly than usual, goes well beyond the point of fullness, and experiences intense shame, guilt, and distress after the binge.  Like the other eating disorders, BED is associated with secrecy, low self-esteem, and poor body image.  However, unlike anorexia and bulimia, those with Binge Eating Disorder do not typically engage in behaviors to compensate for binges.  As a result, BED often leads to obesity.


Difficulty sleeping is a common problem these days.  Whether it's difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently, or waking up too early, many people find it a challenge to get quality sleep.  Insomnia can occur alone or in combination with an anxiety disorder such as GAD or a mood disorder such as depression.  Difficulty sleeping can also make these problems worse and contribute to other issues, such as difficulty concentrating, irritability, and lack of energy.  Fortunately, CBT has been proven effective for sleep problems and is an excellent option for those who want to avoid taking sleep medications.

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