Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
|What causes OCD?|
|What are some of the symptoms of OCD?|
|How is OCD treated?|
|Some frequently asked questions|
Worries, doubts, and personal rituals are all common in everyday life. However, when they become excessive to point of interfering with daily life then a diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) may be made by a medical professional. Some common examples of behaviors characteristic of OCD include hours of hand washing, or a need to check-up on things repeatedly. You may also be preoccupied by thoughts of violence and fear that you will harm people close to you. The disturbing thoughts and images, which are typical characteristics of OCD, are called obsessions, and the rituals that are performed to try and prevent or dispel them are called compulsions. Although a lot of healthy people can identify with having some of the symptoms of OCD, the condition is recognized when such activities interfere with daily life. People with OCD often describe their symptoms as feeling like mental hiccups that won't go away. OCD is a medical brain disorder that causes problems in information processing resulting in symptoms that may include those described above. Approximately 2% of Americans, or about 3.3 million people, suffer from OCD each year, so you are not alone. This disorder affects both men and women equally and symptoms usually become apparent during adolescence or early childhood.[ To Top ]
There is no single, proven cause of OCD, but there is growing evidence that OCD represents abnormal functioning of brain circuitry. OCD is not caused by family problems or attitudes learned in childhood, nor is it your fault that you suffer from OCD.
Research suggests that OCD involves problems with communication different parts of the brain. These brain structures use the chemical messenger SEROTONIN. It is believed that insufficient levels of SEROTONIN are prominently involved in OCD. Drugs that increase the brain concentration of SEROTONIN often help improve symptoms. Although it seems clear that reduced levels of SEROTONIN play a role in OCD, there is no laboratory test for OCD; the diagnosis is made based on an assessment of the person's symptoms.
There are different risk factors for OCD as well:
Childhood-onset OCD tends to run in families.
When a parent has OCD, there is a slightly increased risk that a child will develop the disease, although the risk is still low.
When OCD runs in families, specific symptoms are not inherited even if the disease is transmitted.[ To Top ]
Symptoms and behaviors associated with OCD are varied. Common symptoms include generally unwanted behaviors and/or thoughts that occur very frequently (several times a day). OCD usually involves having both obsessions and compulsions, though a person with OCD may sometimes have only one or the other.
Obsessions are thoughts, images, or impulses that occur over and over again and feel out of control. The person does not want to have these ideas, finds them disturbing and intrusive, and usually recognizes that they don't really make sense. People with OCD typically try to make their obsessions go away by performing compulsions.
Compulsions are acts the person performs over and over again, often according to certain "rules." People with an obsession about contamination may wash constantly to the point that their hands become raw and inflamed. Unlike compulsive drinking or gambling, OCD compulsions do not give the person pleasure. Rather, the rituals are performed to obtain relief from the discomfort caused by the obsessions.
Some of symptoms and behaviors may include, but are not limited to:
The first step in treating OCD is educating the patient and family about OCD and its treatment.
Treatments for OCD include:
Pharmacotherapy - In recent years, clinical trials have shown that specific medications are very helpful in the treatment of this disorder. Drugs that affect SEROTONIN levels can significantly decrease symptoms of OCD. These are often classified as SRIs, or SEROTONIN re-uptake inhibitors. If a patient does not respond to these, however, other treatments are pursued. Additionally, if the medication is discontinued, relapse will follow.
In general, the drugs are well tolerated by most people with OCD. Some side effects include nervousness, insomnia, restlessness, nausea, and diarrhea. All side effects depend on the dose of medication and on how long one takes it. If side effects greatly interfere with daily life, it is important to make sure that the initial dosage of medication is small and increased slowly. More severe side effects are associated with larger doses and a rapid increase in dosage.
Behavior Therapy- Traditional psychotherapy, aimed at helping the patient develop insight into the problem, is generally not helpful for treating OCD. However, a specific behavior therapy approach called "exposure and response prevention" is effective for many people with OCD. Exposure is based on the fact that anxiety usually goes down after enough contact with something feared. Thus, people with obsessions about germs are told to hold or remain in contact with something that they fear is full of germs until their anxiety lessens and disappears altogether. Over time, the patient experiences decreased anxiety from obsessive thoughts and becomes able to do without the compulsive actions. For exposure to be of the most help, it needs to be combined with response or ritual prevention (RP). In RP, the person's rituals or avoidance behaviors are blocked. For example, those with excessive worries about germs must not only stay in contact with "germy things," but must also refrain from ritualized washing.
People react differently to behavior therapy, just as they do to medication. "Exposure and response prevention" is relatively free of side effects, but all patients will experience some anxiety during treatment.[ To Top ]
That depends upon the degree in which the symptoms or behaviors interfere with your thinking, reasoning, and/or life functioning. If you feel you have any of these symptoms or symptoms of a similar nature, consult a health professional experienced with OCD and discuss your symptoms.Can People with OCD have other Illnesses?
OCD is sometimes accompanied by depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or other anxiety disorders. When a person also has other disorders, OCD is often more difficult to diagnose and treat. Persons with OCD use different brain circuitry in performing a cognitive task than people without the disorder.Is OCD considered to be an anxiety disorder?
Yes. The obsessions cause anxiety, which results in a need to perform compulsions which provides temporary relief.Why doesn't an individual with OCD "just stop" their behavior?
Most truly wish they could. Probably the biggest reason why they do not "just stop" is anxiety. The person with OCD suffers intense anxiety over whatever their symptoms focus upon. They want to "make sure" that whatever they are focusing upon is taken care of. They can't just stop the behavior.Are there any other disorders related to OCD?
Tourette's syndrome link to dictionary is related to OCD, and some people have both disorders. Several other disorders appear similar to OCD, including Body Dysmorphic dictionary Disorder (BDD), Trichotillomania (hair pulling), and impulse control disorders dictionary, but it is not clear whether or not these illnesses are truly related to OCD. Other disorders, such as major depression, social phobia, and panic disorder are more common in people with OCD.Can stress affect OCD?
Yes. It is typical to notice a worsening of OCD symptoms during stressful periods. Stress does not cause OCD, but a stressful event (like the death of a loved one, birth of a child, or divorce) may trigger the onset of the disorder or exacerbate it.[ To Top ]