What are the risk factors for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has a strong genetic basis; close relatives of a person with the disorder are six times more likely to have OCD than a person who has no relatives with the condition. Brain imaging scans of people with OCD show increased nerve cell activity in the basal ganglia, an area of the brain that controls motor function. One theory is that damage to this region during childhood or even before birth increases the risk for OCD. This disorder is also common among people with conditions linked to dysfunction in the basal ganglia, such as Tourette syndrome (a condition marked by repeated involuntary sounds and movements, i.e., tics). However, experts don't fully understand how abnormalities of increased activity in the basal ganglia might promote the repetitive thoughts and rituals of OCD.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The number one risk factor for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is family history. According to Dr. David Tolin, director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Institute of Living, "We know there's a very strong genetic component. It seems to affect men and women in equal numbers. Boys tend to develop this disorder earlier, whereas, girls develop it in later years, or even in early adulthood years."
This content originally appeared on

Continue Learning about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Am I Type A—Or Do I Have OCD?
Am I Type A—Or Do I Have OCD?
You’re a worrier, you can’t sleep if the house is messy, you only submit work that’s absolutely perfect…but when you casually say, “I’m so OCD!” is it...
Read More
How does obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affect thinking?
Sheri Van DijkSheri Van Dijk
With obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), certain thoughts can become overwhelming: for example,...
More Answers
What is the future of OCD research?
Wayne K. Goodman, MDWayne K. Goodman, MD
Physicians are starting to understand the causes of OCD and develop better therapies for the conditi...
More Answers
What Is OCD?
What Is OCD?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.