As the name suggests there are two parts to obsessive compulsive disorder, obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, stressful thoughts that come up over and over again. The thoughts are not reasonable, and the person experiencing them knows this (children with the disorder may not) but still can’t stop them. Compulsions are behaviors or mental acts done in response to the obsessions in order to reduce the anxiety caused by them. Common compulsions include hand washing, putting things in order, checking, counting or repeating words silently. Some research indicates that obsessions and compulsions in Black people are more likely to be related to cleanliness and order. Diagnosis with the disorder requires that the obsessions and compulsions take up more than one hour per day and interfere with the person’s life.

The general population lifetime prevalence rate of OCD is estimated to be approximately 1.6-3%, and these rates are thought to be the same in the Black population. There has been very little research done on OCD specifically in Blacks.