Conditions and Disorders
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts and actions. Those affected with OCD are plagued by intrusive thoughts such as becoming diseased, fear of someone close to them dying or intense fear of germs. Other mental obsessions include sexual or violent thoughts that the person may attach meaning or significance to. Although the thoughts seem strange such as believing that inanimate objects have souls or feelings, the person will believe it regardless. Those suffering from severe OCD may have mental obsessions that become delusions.
Because these thoughts are unpleasant and excessive, those with OCD will attempt rituals or behaviors to alleviate them. This is the compulsive side of the disorder. They understand that these rituals are irrational but they perform them anyway to avoid stress or anxiety. Common obsessive behaviors or rituals include: counting footsteps, arranging items to be symmetrical abnormal, sensitivity to certain numbers or patterns, aligning or organizing items obsessively, touching objects a certain number of times, checking and rechecking the stove. Those with OCD do not perform these tasks because they want to, but rather because they feel they have to in order to escape their obsessive thoughts and also to avoid a dreadful event they believe will occur. Some people will spend hours performing the rituals each day despite the risk of it interfering with their personal lives. Some with OCD suffer in many areas of their lives such as family, work, and relationships. Excessive hand washing may be performed as a compulsion to eradicate germs even though the ritual can cause dermatitis.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is fairly common as is affects 1 in 50 US adults. OCD also affects children and adolescents. Life stress in the form of bullying and trauma may contribute to the child’s OCD. Other environmental stressors that contribute to a person’s OCD include: the death of a loved one, abuse, relationship problems, illness, stressful living situations or moving. People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may also suffer from more than one mental disorder such as depression, social anxiety, or anorexia nervosa. Those with OCD may also have problems with drug and alcohol abuse or addiction.
Researchers are not completely sure what causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but it is generally believed to be genetic.
Treatment for OCD starts with a diagnosis from a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist. SSRI medication may be prescribed in a addition to therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is highly recommended by doctors to help change the habits of the person in their day to day life. Therapy is also important to address the root of the problem. In severe cases of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder some have gone to electroconvulsion therapy when they do not respond to medications or therapy.
Other forms of treatment that have been found effective in addition to therapy include taking up hobbies, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a healthy diet. Although OCD cannot be prevented, with treatment those with the disorder are able to live normal, happy lives.