Obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known as OCD, can be described as an obsession that a person cannot stop thinking about, even though they know they are unreasonable, they are still affected by them (Vidich, 1968, p. 245). An obsession is a constant, invasive thought or idea that causes concern and compulsion is a repetitive behavior that a person feels the need to perform in order to reduce anxiety. This disorder causes significant distress and interference in the person’s daily life (Griggs, 2017, p. 439-440). Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a general category, but it in itself is a very large spectrum. There are many different types of OCD and can be determined by observing the person’s behaviors associated with obsessive-compulsiveness (Vidich, 1968, p. 246).
A person with obsessive-compulsive disorder will often times repeat thoughts or behaviors over and over again. Some common symptoms of OCD include an extreme fear of germs, destructive thoughts towards themselves or to others, or even having things in a symmetrical, organized, and patterned manner. Some people with obsessive-compulsive disorder even have the urge to clean things or wash their hands excessively, order things in a special way, compulsive counting, or even frequently checking things like making sure you locked the door or unplugging things to prevent an unwanted result (The National Institute of Mental Health, 2016).
Researchers trying to find the root cause of OCD have observed that certain areas of the brain work differently in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some have found that there are communication errors between the different parts of the brain including the orbitofrontal cortex, the striatum, and the thalamus. Some research even suggests that there could be irregularity in neurotransmitter systems, involving chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate. These chemicals are responsible for sending messages throughout the brain (Beyond OCD). Also, people who have experienced abuse during childhood are at an increased risk for developing obsessive-compulsive disorder. In some cases, children may develop OCD following a streptococcal infection. There is still not a definitive cause of OCD (The National Institute of Mental Health) .
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can have negative effects on the person diagnosed with the disorder and the people around them. The disorder can worsen without correct treatment. The person may develop wounds on the skin from irritable scratching or over washing and scrubbing. The person could have trouble maintaining and exceeding in their professional, academic, or social life. They could begin to isolate themselves from others close to them due to the fear of spreading germs or because they are too consumed in their own thoughts to think about interactions with others. They may start to have recurring suicidal thoughts or tendencies due to OCD. Some people may even turn to alcohol or illegal drugs for relaxation, resulting in substance abuse. The obsession can take up a big portion of the person’s day which can interfere with their family and social life. The person may begin to have more conflicts with friends and family and may even lose the relationship as a whole. Some family members may blame the person with OCD for their obsessive behaviors, which in turn can anger the person with OCD. Due to this intense anger, the person with obsessive-compulsive disorder may try to inflict pain onto others that are close to them (Belmont Behavioral Hospital).
OCD is usually treated with medications, psychotherapy, or both. Some antidepressant medications can inhibit serotonin reuptake in the neurotransmitters, reducing the symptoms of the disorder. If symptoms do not improve with these types of medicines, some doctors will prescribe antipsychotic medications. These medications can help the person cope with the symptoms, but will not permanently relieve the effects of OCD. Psychotherapy is another alternative to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. Research shows that certain types of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and other related therapies can be as effective as medication for many individuals (The National Institute of Mental Health). CBT can help the patient become aware of their obsessive or compulsive thoughts so that they can respond to them in an efficient way. Researchers also found that Exposure and Response Prevention can help reduce compulsive behaviors, even in people who did not respond well to serotonin-inhibiting medication. Some patients choose to try medications first and then result to psychological therapy. There is still research being done to determine more alternatives to treatment for people with OCD. At the moment, it is unclear which treatment is the best. Scientists believe that it depends on how extreme the patient has the disorder and the location of the brain affected by OCD (The National Institute of Mental Health).
OCD was once believed to be a rare disorder, but recent years have shown that more people may have OCD than previously estimated. According to a research study done by The American Psychiatric Association, about three million people of the United States population are diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder every year. It was also found that women are at a higher risk of developing OCD, but the disorder is more common in men during childhood ages. People who suffer from OCD also tend to struggle with anxiety disorders, too. About 76% of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder are also diagnosed with anxiety as well (Belmont Behavioral Hospital).
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