Mental Health

The History of OCD

history of ocd Posted On
Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

Who first described Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

OCD Esquirol

In 1838 the French psychiatrist Jean Etienne Dominique Esquirol first described obsessions and compulsions as being a form of monomania, or partial insanity

By the end of the 19th-century obsessions and compulsions were regarded as manifestations of depression, still known as melancholy back then.

At the beginning of the 20th century, both the Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud and the French neurologist Pierre Janet isolated OCD from neurasthenia. Neurasthenia was a term used to label a mechanical weakness of the nerves.

However, it is Sigmund Freud who lies at the origin of the term OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. He originally called this mental illness “Zwangneurose” echoing the Austro-German psychiatrist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing, who referred to irresistible thoughts as “Zwangsvorsfellungen”.

Sigmund Freud’s conclusion about OCD

OCD Freud

In 1909 Sigmund Freud’s publication about the Rat Man, a case of obsessional neurosis. The psychoanalysis concluded that obsessive and compulsive actions came to be seen as the results of unconscious conflicts and the isolation of thoughts and actions from their emotional components.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder and related disorders: a comprehensive survey

Stanford School of Medicine: History of OCD

Different Brains: OCD Has Made History, And So Can You!

OCD UK: The history of OCD

Pulse TMS: The history of obsessive compulsive disorder

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