When Does OCD Typically Develop?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is far too often misunderstood and misrepresented. It has gotten to the point where any time a person is orderly, they are labeled OCD. In reality, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is not a punch line. It can be a serious and debilitating disorder. People with OCD require professional help. They also require accurate information.

Part of this crucial effort involves a deeper understanding of the nuances of the disorder. For example, who gets it and when does it typically develop? In the name of sharing the kind of information that can offer solace and solutions, let’s take a much closer look. 

When Does OCD Typically Develop?

First things first: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can start at any point in a person’s life — as early as preschool. Pregnant women are at a higher risk after they deliver a baby. That said, OCD most commonly emerges in one of two age ranges:

  • Between the ages of (roughly) 6 and 12
  • Somewhere in the late teens and early 20s 

OCD tends to appear earlier in males than in females. Studies have found:

  • The mean onset for boys is 9.6 years; for girls, it is 11 years
  • The mean onset for men is 21 years; for women, it is 24 years 

When OCD emerges in adulthood, it is often associated with or perhaps triggered by a life event. Some examples include: 

  • Having major new responsibilities in your life (like having a child)
  • Suffering a painful loss (like the death of a loved one)

So, what are the take-home messages here? Firstly, OCD does not always follow a predictable pattern, and sometimes, life events can play an important role. However, there is enough evidence to suggest the disorder most commonly appears during two general age ranges (see above). 

How Common is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

  • OCD affects about 1 in 40 American adults and 1 in 100 children in the U.S.
  • This is roughly 2.3 percent of the population 
  • If one family member has OCD, there is a 25 higher risk of other family members struggling with it
  • Number of adults with OCD who report mild impairment: 15 percent
  • Moderate impairment: 35 percent
  • Serious impairment: 51 percent 

OCD Treatment Options

In severe instances or cases that do not respond to therapy, medication may be prescribed. These are usually antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). But the front-line approach will almost always be talk therapy.

A common approach is a style of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). With ERP, kids are encouraged to face their fears and obsessions through exposure. The goal is to guide them to not surrender to their compulsions when triggered by the exposure. This is accomplished slowly by helping them:

  • First, take a little time before indulging in the compulsion
  • Then slow down the ritual into virtually slow motion
  • Remove one aspect of the ritual
  • Take an even longer pause before the compulsion
  • Not engaging in the compulsion at all

Note: Family involvement is essential for kids with OCD. They feel less isolated and more encouraged when parents and siblings participate in any way. Therefore, treatment for children will be a collective and collaborative effort. 

You’re Not Alone and Help is Available

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can sometimes cause shame and loneliness. But fortunately, there are many options and resources that can help you regain more control over your life — at any age. It starts with getting the right information about OCD symptoms and treatment. If you or someone you know is experiencing signs that feel alarming, you can get the answers you need from an experienced professional. This process starts with you reaching out. That allows us to connect for a free and confidential consultation.

Creative Arts Therapy Source offers in-person therapy on Long Island. Online therapy is available across New York & New Jersey.