Where can I find resources about OCD?

International OCD Foundation is a dedicated platform for OCD patients, clinicians, and family. Please visit IOCDF website to learn more about OCD (https://iocdf.org/). In addition to psychoeducation about OCD, IOCDF has a therapist list where OCD patients can identify local therapists, treatment centers, and organizations. It also engages in advocacy activities, such as conferences in June and an awareness week in October. Destigmatizing OCD is a critical mission for the future.

Locally, OCD Massachusetts (https://www.ocdmassachusetts.org/) hosts free series zoom meetings and lectures. Please check on the website from time to time for more information.

What is the difference between anxiety and stress?

The differentiation between anxiety and stress is a very critical part of treatment. Stress is from environment and most people feel overwhelmed in a stressful situation, such as taking exam, getting fired, or social isolation during pandemic. However, when the severity of the anxiety or the presence of the anxiety is out -of-proportion to the situation, it is considered anxiety disorder.

Anxiety symptoms are not enemies. Instead, anxiety is functions as a survival signal. Flight-or-flight response is ingrained in our emotional brain and body to react to dangerous situation. Therefore, emotional brain often overrides the rational brain when it comes to survival. Human brains learn efficiently with a cost to misinterpret safe situations as threats. Sometimes, those irrational fear can limit a person’s ability to function.

In cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), therapists first help clients to practice to identify thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental present way. This process help differentiating stress and anxiety. CBT offers skill set to cope with stress, such as mindfulness, deep breathing exercise, progressive muscle relaxation and many other tools. When anxiety is out-of-tune with reality, recalliberation of the feelings is important in the session. CBT for anxiety is in general exposure-based. Through the therapeutic process, clients learn how to conquer anxiety.

What is obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is defined as recurrent intrusive thoughts/images or repetitive behaviors due to urges or anxiety. It affects 1-3% of the US population, in both children and adults. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5) described the criteria as followed:


Recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive, unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress. The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges, or images, or to neutralize them with some thought or action.


Repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to the rules that must be applied rigidly. The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation. However, these behaviors or mental acts either are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive.

The common symptom dimensions in OCD can be categorized into:

  1. symmetry, arranging, ordering
  2. aggressive obsessions (harm to self or others)
  3. contamination, cleaning
  4. forbidden thoughts
  5. religious obsessions, morality, scrupulosity
  6. checking
  7. hoarding, collecting
  8. magical thinking
  9. tapping, sensory phenomenon
  10. health and somatic obsessions

A thorough list of OCD symptoms are described in the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS), a common scale used to quantify the severity of OCD.