OCD in Numbers

What are the most common obsessions in OCD? And how many people actually have them?
These are two of the questions that I am trying to answer today. As I have always loved statistics, I decided to look at some research data about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and in today’s post, I will share a couple of interesting things that I have found.

Most of OCD-related research was conducted with a relatively small sample size, so I can not guarantee that all of the numbers that I got from different sources are a 100% accurate – but they looked pretty realistic to me – I mean, obviously because otherwise, I would not be sharing them with you!

1 in 40

1 in 40 adults in the U.S. have OCD.(source)
What about other countries? Now that is a good question! I have not been able to find statistics from other countries, however, I was going through a few websites from France, Romania and Hungary and most of them estimated the prevalence of OCD at about 2-3% – which is very similar to the U.S. numbers.

65 %

The percentage of OCD sufferers who get diagnosed with OCD before the age 25.


The average age at diagnosis. (source)
And looking at this, I can see that I am pretty “average”. My OCD got out of control when I was a senior in high school and I got my diagnosis at the age of 19.

Want to read more about how OCD is diagnosed?

Most Common Obsessions

Source of Data – chart by Mark Wester

I guess the fear of contamination is the most well-known OCD obsession – and according to the statistics, it is also the most common one. However, as we can see it is not the only obsession that people with OCD have – and it is not even significantly more common than other obsessions such as aggressive or terrifying thoughts (for example, fear of harming loved ones) or body-focused obsessions (such as the fear of choking).


10% of people with OCD constantly question their sexuality.

Most Common Compulsions

Source of Data – chart by Mark Wester

Want to read more about obsessions and compulsions? Check:

Living with OCD: What impact does it have on your life?

So, what impact can OCD have on your life? It really varies from person to person. And obviously, it changes over time: OCD used to make my life a living hell, but then it’s gotten a lot better so I can say that in my case it went from “significant impairment” to “mild impairment”.

  • 50.6% of adults experience significant impairment.
  • 34.8% experience moderate impairment.
  • And 14.6% experience mild impairment.


13.7% – the lifetime prevalence of ADHD in adult OCD patients.

What is ADHD?
It stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Myself, I do not have ADHD myself, however, you can find a lot of interesting articles about it on Maja’s blog: Lampelina. For example this one: Me and my ADHD

Over 30%

30% of adults with OCD have a lifetime history of GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). (source)
What is GAD?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by exaggerated anxiety about simple, everyday life things – with no apparent reasons for worry. I am a very “lucky” person because I have both OCD and GAD – sounds amazing, does it not?

Read more:
How to tell the difference between OCD and GAD?

About 30%

About 30% of people with OCD have had a substance use disorder at some point in their lives. This is nearly double the rate of the general population. (source)
And yeah, me too I have been there. I started to drink at a very young age and had alcohol problems during my teens. And by saying alcohol problems, I do not mean that “I sometimes got drunk” but I mean actual alcohol-abuse.

10 times

Depression is 10 times more prevalent in OCD patients than in general population. (source)

Want to read more about depression? Check out Kacha’s blog to read more about depression, burnout and a lot more: Food.For.Thoughts

Your thoughts

As you know, there’s one thing that I love more than writing about my thoughts and experiences: reading about yours! So please feel free to share any thoughts, opinions or questions in the comment section




29 thoughts on “OCD in Numbers

  1. Interesting to see it this way aroundβ€” numbers for ADHD prevalence amongst OCD. I’m so used to seeing it the other way around :).

    The OCD prevalence rate is basically similar/the same here in the UK too, from a quick search. It makes sense, it’s the sort of thing I’d expect to be universally prevalent like that, so it’s good to see actual measured rates closely matching.

    I learned an interesting thing about Dyslexia the other dayβ€” diagnosis rates vary dramatically across languages! For example, it’s especially high in English-speaking countries because English is so damned illogical! πŸ˜†. The actual prevalence rates DO matchβ€” there’s the same amount of people with the same underlying brain difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess when it comes to OCD prevalence, there should be no significant difference between the different countries. The only thing that I have been trying to figure out ( and I have not been able to) is whether people experience less severe impairment in regions with warmer climates – like my OCD usually gets worse in the winter, mainly because of the lack of sunshine.

      What is the prevalence of OCD among ADHD patients?

      Wow now that is interesting about Dyslexia. I have just googled how common it is in my country (Hungary) and according to most of the websites it is around 5-10%. And that actually sounds realistic to me – like I know a lot of people with dyslexia but on the other hand I would not say it was extremely common here. And as you said, this may have something to do with the language itself.


  2. Great post, Mark, and very informative. Those statistics are scary – I never realized how common OCD really was. I wonder how it compares to other common mental health issues? I have a co-worker who has a gaming addiction, went through rehab, and is now struggling to put his life back together (he’s only 24). In some ways it sounded very similar to OCD – at least the obsession part.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you πŸ™‚ I am glad you have found it informative.
      Yes, to be honest, it also shocked me – like I used to think OCD was far less common.
      And yes – it would be pretty interesting to check how it compares to other mental health issues, I will do some research on it. What I know is that at least in my country Major Depressive Disorder is much more common than OCD (like 1 in 10 people have it in their lifetime).
      Sometimes it is hard to make a difference between an addiction and OCD. And I guess people with OCD are more likely to have addictions but that is only what i think (couldnt find any data on this)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes! Me too I am pretty sure he had OCD and I have just googled it and apparently a lot of people agree with us. And i guess his OCD was pretty severe 😦 guess a few decades ago it was much more difficult to live with OCD.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Howard Hughes was a brilliant man.
        Everything he touched turned to gold.
        All his smarts and a mental issue like OCD kept him a prisoner in his own world. It is truly sad that he never showed his full potential.


  3. Great post with statistics! I didn’t realize that ADHD was prevalent with OCD. The mind can be such an interesting place and while it can seem simple at the first glance, those numbers make me think about the underlying theories.

    I fully believe the 50.6% experiencing a significant impairment from living with the condition. I guess for me – that number could be even higher – as I suspect you ‘learn to deal with it to a certain point’. Especially when it touches people at such a young and flexible age. So, I think, that that 50% is even on top of the resilience that people need to have to cope. To conclude, I think, that the number can be even higher.

    Fear of contamination, I knew that one, but it also made my heart ache for people with that fear having to cope with all the news about the Corona virus. Do you experience more news about it in your country? Do you think it can influence people having that fear of contamination or is OCD not influenced by it?

    Thank you so much for mentioning my blog, I was really surprised!


    1. Hi Kacha,

      Apologies for the late reply. It was a surprise for me too that ADHD was so common among people with OCD.
      And that is a very interesting thing you have just said – like I think that I am only experiencing a relatively mild impairment but maybe I think so only because I got used to having OCD and I have become better at handling it. And yes: I do agree with you that this number can be even higher.

      And coronavirus….yes. At the beginning of this whole outbreak, I did not use to care that much because I kind of learnt how to handle my OCD so I just didnt really google things about the virus and I tried not to think about it. But its getting more and more difficult because its all over the place. Like you know what OCD is like…there is always this “what if” and if you open your facebook, you will not be able to skip coronavirus news…so I think this is giving a pretty hard time for people with OCD 😦 in my country, most of the people do not panic and the Hungarian media is not full of coronavirus news but obviously, many of us read the news in English – and those are far scarier. What is it like in Belgium? Do people panic over coronavirus?

      Of course I mention your blog! I do not have too much knowledge about depression and your posts give a lot of useful insights so it just had to be shared!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Mark! No need for apologies! About Corona, I would not open facebook (I never look at my fb, it is just evil!). The Belgian media are very clear on communication and there are clear answers and a plan of action.
        But you know people, they like to panic and some items are already ‘sold out’ in the shops and we see empty shelfs on products that can hold for a long time. It’s like living in communist times again for me πŸ˜†

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh yes, sometimes it would be better not to open Facebook. The problem is that I just love it. So what I have started doing instead is unfollowing accounts that post “panicky stuff”. I do not know much about viruses, but what I know is that panic will not help anyone.
        Thanks for God, things here have not been sold out yet but the first coronavirus case in Hungary has just been announced so let’s see what happens tomorrow.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Crackers were one of first things to sold out here, so one tip, if you like your crackers, you buy them πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
        People are just crazy! (and not the people dealing with mental issues!!)


  4. Very interesting. I’ve always wondered about the 1-2% of people having OCD statistic. I have no evidence for this but I would guess that severe OCD is a lot rarer than this. Perhaps 1 in 1000. I’m going to explore this in a future blog post hopefully.
    Thanks so much for the like of my most recent post, I’m new to this :).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you found it interesting. Honestly it is pretty hard to estimate because I think there are a lot of people who do not seek professional help. But yes, I do agree with you that severe OCD might be rarer.
      Thank you for sharing your posts! πŸ™‚ It does help a lot of people to see that they are not alone with this.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you’re a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will come back very soon. I want to encourage one to continue your great job, have a nice evening!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rachal,

      Thank you for your comment and for reading my blog. And apologies for the late reply.

      Looking forward to you coming back and also feel free to suggest any topics that you’d like to read about! πŸ™‚




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