According to the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or the DSM-IV), obsessive-compulsive disorder is defined by many different parameters. The diagnosis of the disorder is contingent upon whether the individual meets several different criteria for both compulsions and obsessions. Firstly, compulsions are defined, more simply, as recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images one that experiences are recognized as excessive, irrational, and disrupting to one’s life. Compulsions on the other hand are described as the repetitive behaviors or mental acts one feels compelled to do in accordance with one’s obsessions. It emphasizes that the individual must recognize the obsessions or compulsions as excessive or unreasonable, and that they interfere significantly with one’s daily life. As with many others defined in the manual, if the individual experiences another “Axis I” disorder simultaneously, the substance of the compulsions and obsessions are not limited to that one disorder. Finally, the disorder may not be the direct result of psychological substances or a different medical circumstance (DSM-IV). In addition to the lengthy diagnostic conditions associated with this disorder, there are also a number of categories to which a person affected can fall into. The first group, “washers,” are those whom fear contamination. These individuals often have cleaning or hand-washing compulsions. The next group is “checkers,” who repeatedly check things they associate with being harmful or dangerous. “Doubters and sinners” are those who are afraid that if everything isn’t perfect or done just right something terrible will happen or they will be punished. The group of “counters and arrangers,” consist of those who are obsessed with order and symmetry. These individuals may have superstitions about certain numbers, colors, or arrangements. The last group, “hoarders,” fear that something bad will happen if they throw anything away. They often compulsively hoard things that they do not need, use, or even have the appropriate space for. In addition are those who are have overly aggressive obsessions, physically violent or verbally abusive, and those who are hypersexually imaginary, who have frequent excessively pornographic thoughts. As a large portion of those with mental disorders are affected by OCD, more emphasis is being placed on research of the disorder.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can have astronomical effects on an individual’s life. “Up to 70% of people report problems with family relationships, and more than half report interference with social and work relationships” (Koran 2000; Hollander 1997; Koran 1996; Calvocoressi 1995). Beginning to show signs of onset between ages 6 and 15 for males and 20 to 29 for females, the progression is most often fairly gradual. Most individuals experience periods of symptom intensity and possible absence, at any given point in time (DSM-IV). The disorder not only affects the individual, it also greatly affects a span of people within their social sphere. As a result much of the focus remains on the origins of OCD, namely the genetic association.