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Mental disorder in which an individual experiences obsessions or compulsions, either singly or together. An obsession is a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an unreasonable idea or feeling (such as of being contaminated through shaking hands with someone). A compulsion is an irresistible impulse to perform an irrational act (such as repeatedly washing the hands). The two phenomena are usually, but not always, linked in the obsessive-compulsive person. Onset of the illness has been linked to malregulation of the neurotransmitter serotonin as well as to the ill effects of high stress.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on obsessive-compulsive disorder, visit Britannica.com.
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