Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): more than Just a Mental Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder also known as OCD, is an anxiety disorder that affects lots of adolescents. According to Pallanti, University of Florence, Department of Psychiatry, OCD is a chronic and long-lasting neuropsychiatric disorder in which people have unwanted feelings, ideas, or sensations known as obsessions, and behaviors that drive them to do things over and over again known as compulsions (2014). In addition, OCD includes obsessions and compulsions symptoms that can help diagnose a person with the disorder. Besides patients showing sings or symptoms, there are also risk factors that can increase the development of OCD in individuals. Furthermore, adolescents that suffer from OCD do treatments that include medications and psychotherapy, or a combination of both treatments. Now because of new technology and new understanding of the brain, new treatments for OCD are being tested and experimented. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a very common disorder in young adults and can be diagnose at any time in life.

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Adolescents

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thought or obsessions and behaviors or compulsions that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over. Intense obsessions or compulsions can cause severe discomfort and it can also interfere with the individual’s day-to-day activities (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2013). Obsessions are usually persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are unwanted and cause anxiety or distress. Most obsessions are unrealistic. In addition, compulsions are repetitive behavior for example washing your hands over and over again, checking multiple times the locked door, and keeping things in order. Many adolescents with OCD suffer from anxiety or distress, and those problems interfere with their normal routine, academic functioning, social activities, or relationships.

According to David Simpson, Clinic Coordinator and Clinician for the Pediatric Stress and Anxiety Disorder Clinic, adolescents also suffer of fear of contamination, fear they did something wrong or left something unfinished, also fear of contaminating others, perfectionism, and cleanliness (2009). Furthermore, OCD show signs and symptoms for obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions and Compulsions Symptoms

Obsessions are repeated, and unwanted thoughts, urges or images that are disturbing, which can cause anxiety (Mayo Clinic, 2016). Some common symptoms of obsessions include: fear of contamination, needing things orderly and symmetrical, aggressive thoughts about harming yourself or others, and unwanted thoughts that include aggression, sexual or religious subjects. For example, individuals who suffered from OCD fear of being contaminated by touching objects other people have touched. Also, they have doubts about making sure the doors are locked, besides having doubts OCD individuals get intense when certain objects are not in a proper order or are facing a certain way. Futhermore, adolescents who suffer from OCD also show signs for compulsions. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that individuals feel driven to perform. Compulsions are meant to reduce or prevent anxiety trigger by the obsessions. Compulsion symptoms include: washing and cleaning, checking, counting, follow a strict routine, and demanding reassurance. For example, they wash their hands over and over again until their skin becomes red and raw. Also, they usually check doors repeatedly to make sure they are locked, silently repeating a prayer or phrases, and they arrange objects facing the same way (Mayo Clinic, 2016). Moreover, OCD has risk factors that might increase the development of this mental disorder.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Risk Factors

The causes of OCD are not fully understood, however there are several theories about the causes of OCD. One of them is that OCD is transmitted through genetic or hereditary factors, environmental reasons also play an important role, and stressful life events are also a risk factor (Georgina Krebs and Isobel Heyman, 2014). Another theory, is that there are chemical, structural and functional abnormalities in the brain; it is possible that several factors interact to trigger this behavior but the underlying causes may be further influenced by stressful life events, hormonal changes, and even personality traits. For example, experience a traumatic event can lead to stress which then can alter the risk of developing intrusive thoughts, rituals, and emotional distress characteristics of OCD (Mayo Clinic, 2016).

Usually, OCD is very common among young children and adolescents, about half a million of children suffer from OCD in the United States (International OCD Foundation, 2009). Individuals with this disorder are typically diagnosed when they are eighteen years of age or older. Individuals that suffer from OCD have a different brain activity than those who do not suffer from this disease. According to The National OCD Charity, brain imaging studies have shown that differences between people with OCD and healthy controls were found consistently only in the orbital gyrus and the head of the caudate nucleus which is a component of the basal ganglia (2013). Some believed that an infection called Streptococcal which is a severe throat infection, can trigger an immune response in children which it is to believe to activate OCD symptoms. If OCD results from a strep throat infection the symptoms will start quickly, probably within one or two weeks (The National OCD Charity, 2013).

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Cure and Treatments

There are various treatments for OCD. Psychotherapy is a common treatment for patients with OCD and medications. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, patients who do not respond to medications, are usually in a type of psychotherapy treatment (2016). For example, according Lata McGinn, PhD clinical psychologist and co-founder of Cognitive Behavioral Consultants, cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of psychotherapy, is when the clinician emphasizes that the patients will experience an increase in anxiety, more than they are already experiencing (YEAR). Cognitive Therapy is designed to help change the interpretation of dangerous thoughts, or obsessions for individuals with that kind of autonomic unrealistic thoughts (Edna Foa, Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety, University of Pennsylvania, 2010). During this treatment the patients are taught to develop an awareness of their worries as obsessions and their rituals as compulsions. The daily activities of this therapy include patients keeping a record of their obsessions or thoughts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is more of a short-term treatment, usually consisting of twelve to twenty weekly sessions. Besides Cognitive Behavior Therapy, there is another type of psychotherapy that is more for a long-term solution known as Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy.

Another type of psychotherapy that works too is Exposure and Response Therapy. This type is more therapeutic and it is usually a long-term solution. Exposure and response therapy involve gradually increasing the person’s fears and compulsions in order to minimize their behavior. For example, when the person’s anxiety has calm down, they have to repeat the same exercise over and over again until their anxiety has extinguished all together. The point of this exercise is to make the patient get out of their comfort zone and experience things that they would usually not practice. This treatment is carried out as multiple sessions, one of them being homework.

Individuals with OCD are also treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two treatments. A very common medication that is prescribed to OCD patients is Serotonin Inhibitors (SRIs) and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), these are use to help reduce OCD signs (The National Institute of Mental Health Information Resource Center, 2016). SRIs is an antidepressant that often requires a higher dose and it could also take about eight to twelve weeks before it starts working. The improvements of this medication vary since some individuals might show fast results than others.

OCD New Hope

A new hope for treating OCD is Glutamate. According to the Doctor Michael Bloch from International OCD Foundation in Boston, abnormal glutamate levels may play a major role in depressive disorders (2009). Glutamate is a neurotransmitter which transfers or communicates information with another cells. Instead of going through different type therapies, patients can take dietary glutamate to speed up the treatment results and allowing individuals to get back to their lives.


Overall, obsessive compulsive disorder is a mental disorder that causes individuals to have unwanted obsessions and compulsions. In addition, unwanted obsessions and compulsions display symptoms of checking thigs over and over again, excessive cleaning, putting things in a certain way or order, and more. Common risk factors for OCD are hereditary or genetic, stressful life events, and environmental factors. Many of these factors can increase the risk of OCD. Furthermore, there is treatment for individuals suffering of OCD such as taking medications, and going to a type psychotherapy such as cognitive behavior therapy or exposure and response therapy, or a combination of both is used. People react differently to treatment, for example some individuals might show fast results with medications but for others psychotherapy is a better solution. Many patients do not give up, instead they fight against OCD because they want live a joyful life.

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): More Than Just a Mental Disorder. (2020, Mar 18). Retrieved December 10, 2022 , from

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