How Common is OCD? Well, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is relatively common. Only three other mental health conditions are more commonly diagnosed (anxiety, depression, and alcohol/substance abuse. As the name implies, the hallmark of OCD is the presence of intrusive obsessions and compulsions.

The key to an OCD diagnosis is that the obsessions and compulsions are severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily life. Nearly 30 percent of people display some obsessions and compulsions but are not distressed by them. Only about 3 percent are categorized with OCD, but it’s likely that many folks do not seek either diagnosis or treatment. So, numbers can be hard to pin down.

Who Gets OCD?

Here’s some of what we know:

  • OCD can impact people of any age, sex, ethnicity, race, or background
  • It can start at literally any age but most commonly appears either between the ages of 8 and 12 or in very early adulthood
  • Again, all we have are estimates, but as many as 3 million U.S. adults are known to be liven with OCD
  • As for children, that number is at least 1 in 200 or 500,000 in total

OCD Risk Factors

Research is ongoing, but there is believed to be a connection between serotonin and OCD. Serotonin is a chemical that plays a role in regulating functions like:

  • Body temperature
  • Digestion
  • Blood flow
  • Breathing
  • Attention
  • Behavior

Someone with low serotonin levels may be more at risk of OCD. But there are many other risk factors that can contribute to the development of this disorder. We already mentioned the most common age range above. Here are some other possible factors:


A family history of OCD can be a major factor in much at risk you are. Depending on how close that family is to you and when they first developed OCD can be critical. Simply put, if you meet someone with OCD, there is a 25 percent chance that they have at least one immediate family with OCD.


Some documented trends to consider:

  • Females have a higher lifetime risk of OCD
  • Males more often develop OCD in childhood
  • Females more often display obsessions that relate to cleaning and contamination
  • Males more often display obsessions that relate to exactness, symmetry, and sexuality

Co-Existing Mental Issues

It works both ways. Someone with OCD is more likely to also have other mental health issues. Also, someone with a mental health issue is more likely to also have OCD. Here are the most common mental health conditions that coexist with OCD:

  • 50.5 percent had a diagnosis of major depression
  • 24.5 percent had obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
  • 19.3 percent had generalized anxiety disorder
  • 19.2 had a specific phobia
  • 18.5 percent had social anxiety disorder

Pregnancy and Postpartum

High levels of stress during pregnancy can trigger OCD in the mother and/or OCD later in the baby’s life.

Adverse Life Events

Being the victim of or witnessing traumatic events appears to be a trigger for OCD. Abuse, assaults, violence, neglect, abandonment, loss of a parent or other loved one — all of these and more can result in both Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and an increased incidence of OCD.

Regardless of the Details, Help Is Available

As many as 70 percent of people with OCD have found significant relief from symptoms via psychotherapy and/or medication. The process begins with finding a therapist with experience in this realm. Such a connection is a powerful step toward understanding what you’re going through and why. From this foundation, you will work together on the steps toward symptom management and relief.

If you or someone you know is struggling with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, we should connect soon. Let’s set you up for a free and confidential consultation to get you on the path toward healing with anxiety treatment.