Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a serious anxiety-related condition where a person experiences frequent, intrusive and unwelcome obsessive thoughts, often followed by repetitive compulsions, impulses or urges. OCD presents itself in many guises, and people are often surprised to learn that it goes far beyond the common perception of excessive hand washing or the repetitive checking of light switches.
Obsessions are thoughts, images, or urges. They can feel repetitive, distressing and intrusive. Every person has bothersome, thoughts or worries. When a person is preoccupied with these thoughts and is unable to control the thoughts, get rid of them, or ignore them as they might be obsessions.
Obsessions are usually unrealistic and do not make any sense. Obsessions often do not suit one’s personality; they can feel unacceptable or disgusting to the person who has them. Obsessions cause distress, usually in the form of anxiety. People with obsessive thoughts will often try to reduce this distress by acting out certain behaviors , known as rituals or compulsions.
The cause of this disorder is not yet fully understood. According to the medical professionals, this disorder has the tendency to run in families therefore they belevive genetic component to this disease.
Compulsions are behaviors a person does to relieve the distress they feel because of the obsessions. They could be overt (observable) or covert (hidden). While most people have preferred ways of doing certain things (e.g. a morning routine or a certain way to arrange items on a desk), people with OCD feel they “must“ perform their compulsions and find it almost impossible to stop. Usually, people with OCD know the compulsion being senseless. However, he or she feels helpless to stop doing it and may need to repeat the compulsion over and over again.
Sometimes this is described as a ritual. Common compulsions include excessive washing and checking, and mental rituals such as counting, repeating certain words, or praying. Therefore, compulsions often helps in relieving distress in the short-term,rather than the long- term.
As a person with OCD gets used to doing them, the rituals become less helpful at reducing his or her anxiety. To make them more effective again, the person may perform them more frequently and for longer periods of time. This is why people with OCD can appear to be “stuck” doing the same thing over and over again.
OCD Signs and symptoms
A person may have OCD if he/she:
- Has recurrent, persistent and unwanted thoughts, impulses or images (obsessions).
- Performs repetitive, often seemingly purposeful, ritualistic behaviors (compulsions) in order to reduce distress or neutralize the thought.
- Repetitive and unpleasant, with at least one obsession or compulsion recognized as excessive or unreasonable.
- Persisting symptoms for at least one hour a day or significantly Interfering with normal functioning.
- The person derives no pleasure from the obsessive thought or compulsive
act (there may be initial relief from the compulsion, but this passes)
Common Obsessive thoughts and Compulsive behaviors :
- Cleanliness/order: Obsessive hand-washing or household cleaning to reduce an exaggerated fear of contamination is common.
- Counting/hoarding: Repeatedly counting items or objects, such as clothes or pavement blocks when walking, or hoarding items such as junk mail and old newspapers.
- Safety/checking: Obsessive fears about harm occurring to themselves or others which can result in compulsive behaviors.
What are Obsessive-Compulsive Related Disorders?
There are several disorders that seem to be related to OCD. They share similar features such as intrusive thoughts and/or repetitive behaviors. Although similar, there are important differences to consider when looking at effective treatments.
Obsessive-Compulsive Related disorders include:
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder – Preoccupation with an imagined or slight flaw in one’s appearance. BDD often includes repetitive behaviors that are done in response to appearance concerns.
- Trichotillomania Disorder – Compulsive hair pulling to the point of noticeable hair loss.
- Excoriation Disorder – Compulsive skin-picking resulting in noticeable damage to the skin.
- Hoarding Disorder – Persistent difficulty getting rid of possessions because of a perceived need to save them.
What Treatments Are Used for OCD?
Currently, there is no cure for OCD. However, with effective treatment, people can learn to manage their symptoms and restore normal functioning. Best practice guidelines for OCD recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and antidepressant medications for OCD treatment. While many people will benefit from using one or the other, those with moderate-to-severe forms of OCD often do best when both treatments are combined.
Psychological Treatment: CBT
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is widely considered the best psychological treatment available for OCD. Specifically, a form of CBT called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), is the most commonly used therapy in major health-care settings.
Medications in the Treatment of OCD
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors: SSRIs This is a large class of antidepressants that work very specifically on the serotonin neurotransmitter system. These include the following:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Cipralex/Lexapro)
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