Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Causes, Symptoms, and treatment

What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental health chronic and long-lasting disorder which can hit anybody irrespective of age and region. It is characterized by the onset of obsession-compulsion cycle that is repetitive. A person suffering from OCD experiences certain thoughts, ideas, and urges which are intrusive and distressing. These are the obsessions. Obsessions are followed by the action and behavior of a person to get rid of or in response to these obsessions. These are the compulsions.

OCD affects the person in a way that it hinders his/her ability to cope with the day to day routine. The patient finds it difficult to get rid of these obsessions and compulsions. This affects their health, education, job, relation, and other matters.

OCD is mainly more common in females than in males. Its onset occurs usually in teens or early twenties. Although, it can also be developed in the late thirties. OCD is a common mental disorder which can be handled and treated properly if understood well.

Obsession:

The unwanted thoughts and ideas which makes a person anxious and feels that he cannot control them are obsessions. Obsession is accompanied by stress, anxiety, fear, doubt, and disgust. It is not possible to get rid of obsessions which are related to OCD. If a person wants to control them, even then these thoughts come into his mind over and over again.

The word ‘obsession’ is commonly used if a person is preoccupied with something. But these obsessions usually are the source of pleasure. A person can be ‘obsessed’ with anything which he loves. But if we talk about OCD, then those obsessions only bring fear, anxiety, and stress rather than happiness.

Possible Obsessions:

  • One might get harmed if he/she does not follow the proper way of changing clothes.
  • Everything is dirty and has germs on it.
  • Fear of stealing things, thoughts of violent and harmful activities.
  • Doubts and concerns related to God and religion.
  • Thoughts and images of harassment and sexual activities.

Compulsion:

The repetitive behavior which is in the response of an obsession is called compulsion. A person does not feel any kind of pleasure in practicing those compulsions. He/she can feel relaxed for a while but again will be occupied which those obsessions and thus will feel stressed again.

Compulsions take one’s time and can hinder other important tasks. A person feels helpless and needs to repeat these compulsions without being able to control them.

Compulsions can also be followed by the tic disorder. Motor tic is the involuntary and repetitive movement of any body part which seems inappropriate. For example, blinking eyes many times. Shrugging one shoulder etc. vocal tics include cleaning throat, sniffing again and again or grunting sounds.

Possible Compulsions:

  • Washing hands again and again.
  • Cleaning things repeatedly even if they are already cleaned.
  • Putting things in certain order and finding it difficult to change that order.
  • Checking on the door lock again and again.
  • Praying again and again to diminish the fear of getting harmed.

Difference between Compulsive personality trait and OCD:

If a person is ‘obsessed’ by the idea of cleaning and he cleans himself and his surroundings, then it does not mean he has OCD. It is just a personality trait which is not causing any harm.

But if a person is obsessed with the idea of cleaning and cleans the things again and again with the fear of catching germs so much so that it stops him from doing other important things, then it is of concern. The person suffering from OCD cannot control his obsessive thoughts and respective compulsions. He also does not find any pleasure in doing these activities. He just does it in response to his obsessive thoughts just as a ritual.

Causes:

·        Genetic:

Researchers have found that OCD can be transferred genetically. A person is susceptible to OCD if any of his immediate relatives (parents, siblings) have OCD. But unfortunately, it is still unknown that which gene/genes play a role in developing OCD.

·        Brain structure:

There seems a connection between OCD and abnormalities in certain areas of the brain i.e. frontal cortex and subcortical region. Again, research is still underway to conclude the exact reason.

·        Environmental:

A person who has experienced any abuse or has harsh memories of his/her childhood can develop OCD. It is reported that those who lost their loved ones in their childhood are also susceptible.

Treatment:

·        Medications:

Before prescribing any medicine, the psychiatrist will carefully diagnose the illness and will give medication accordingly. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are prescribed to treat OCD. If symptoms do not go away then some antipsychotic drugs like risperidone can be used to treat OCD. It is important to follow the prescribed medicines properly. One should not leave the medicine without the consent of his/her doctor. This can cause serious complications and can worsen the situation.

·        Psychotherapy:

Psychotherapy is followed along with medication to fully control OCD. Researchers have concluded that some therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be as effective as medications. Exposure and response prevention is a type of CBT which is also a very effective technique to treat OCD.

Conclusion:

OCD is a serious and long-term disorder which should not be neglected as it gets worse with time if left untreated. It affects one’s day to day life activities and can also merge with other mental disorders (for example, tic disorder). One should get proper treatment and then enjoy the normal life routine. OCD is not curable, but it is definitely treatable.

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