Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a surprisingly one of the most common and potentially crippling anxiety disorders. Only 25 to 30 years ago, it was believed to be a rare psychiatric illness that affected only a small fraction of the population. Currently, however—owing partly to a growing awareness of effective therapies – OCD is now known to impact millions of Americans at any given time.
Left untreated, OCD can dramatically straight-jacket people’s lives by encumbering them with relentless, irrational, horrific, intrusive thoughts and images (obsessions) and very time consuming, repetitive or elaborate, maladaptive behaviors (compulsions).
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common, long-term illness defined by uncontrollable, repeated thoughts (obsessions) that can lead to recurrent behaviors (compulsions). Although everyone worries or feels the need to double-check things from time to time, OCD symptoms are severe and long-lasting. These symptoms can be distressing and lead to behaviors that disrupt daily activity.
As a technique of getting momentary relief from worry, people with OCD may feel compelled to check things repeatedly or execute routines for more than an hour each day. If OCD symptoms aren’t treated, they can cause problems at job, school, and in personal relationships, as well as distress.
OCD symptoms usually develop in childhood, around the age of ten, or in young adulthood, around the age of twenty-one, and in boys more often than in girls. By the time they reach adulthood, the majority of people have been diagnosed with OCD.
Although the specific causes of OCD are unknown, a number of factors have been linked to an increased risk of having the disorder.
Genetics: One aspect linked to OCD is genetics. Having a first-degree relative with OCD (parent, sibling, or kid) has been linked to an increased risk of getting the disorder in studies. Scientists have yet to identify a single gene or collection of genes that causes OCD, although research into the link between genetics and OCD is underway.
Brain factors: Other biological elements, in addition to genetics, may have a role in the development of the brain. People with OCD generally exhibit changes in the frontal cortex and subcortical regions of the brain, areas of the brain that underpin the ability to govern behavior and emotional responses, according to brain imaging studies. Researchers have also discovered that obsessive thinking, compulsive behavior, and associated fear and anxiety are influenced by various brain locations, brain networks, and biological processes. A study is being conducted to better understand the link between OCD symptoms and brain regions.
Trauma: There is a link between early trauma and obsessive-compulsive symptoms, according to several studies. To fully comprehend this link, more research is required.
After a streptococcal infection, children who suffer a sudden onset or worsening of OCD symptoms may be diagnosed with Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS).
People with OCD may have obsessions, compulsions, or both.
Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety. Common obsessions include:
- Fear of infection or germs
- Fear of forgetting, misplacing, or losing something important.
- The fear of losing control of one’s actions.
- Aggressive thoughts directed at others or toward oneself
- Thoughts on sex, religion, or harm that are unwanted, banned, or taboo.
- Desire for things to be in perfect symmetry or order
Compulsions are habitual activities that a person feels compelled to engage in as a result of an obsessive thought. Among the most common compulsions are:
- Hand washing or excessive cleaning
- arranging or ordering goods in a certain, precise order
- Checking things on a regular basis, such as if the door is locked or the oven is turned off
- Counting obsessively
Some people with OCD also suffer from tic disorders. Motor tics include eye blinking and other eye movements, face grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and head or shoulder jerking, among other things. Repetitive throat clearing, sniffing, or grunting sounds are common vocal tics. People with OCD are more likely to have a documented mood illness or anxiety disorder.
How do I know if it’s OCD?
Not all compulsions or routines are compulsions. Everyone double-checks their work from time to time. People with OCD, in general:
- Can’t control their obsessive thinking or compulsive behaviors, even when they recognize those thoughts or behaviors as excessive
- Spend at least 1 hour a day on these thoughts or compulsive behaviors
- Don’t get pleasure when performing compulsive behaviors or rituals, but may feel brief relief from the anxiety brought on by obsessive thoughts
- Experience significant problems in life due to these thoughts or behaviors
Is OCD related to Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?
Yes. In reality, OCD and BDD frequently coexist. Both OCD and BDD have symptoms that are so similar that BDD is sometimes misdiagnosed as OCD.
- BDD, like OCD, is characterized by distressing, repeated obsession-like thoughts that are often uncontrollable.
- People with BDD engage in compulsion-like activities such as repetitively staring in the mirror, changing clothes, questioning others about the supposed fault, and skin-picking.
- BDD, like OCD, is characterized by a fixation with symmetry and perfection.
- Both OCD and BDD are common in adolescents, can cause significant disability, and respond to antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and cognitive-behavioral approaches (CBT).
Treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder may not result in a cure, but it can help you manage your symptoms so they don’t take over your life. Some patients may require long-term, continuous, or more intensive treatment depending on the severity of their OCD. Psychotherapy and medication are the two most common therapies for OCD. Treatment is often most effective when a combination of these approaches is used.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy, is effective for many people with OCD.
Exposure and response prevention (ERP),CBT therapy includes progressively exposing you to a feared object or preoccupation, such as filth, and teaching you how to resist the temptation to do your compulsive rituals. ERP takes time and practice, but once you learn to control your obsessions and compulsions, you may find that you have a better quality of life.
- working with your therapist to dissect your issues into their constituent pieces, such as your ideas, physical feelings, and actions
- encouraging you to face your worries and have obsessive thoughts without suppressing them with compulsive behaviors; you begin with the situations that generate the least anxiety and work your way up to the more difficult thoughts.
Although the treatment is tough and may appear terrifying, many people find that confronting their obsessions reduces or eliminates their anxiety. People with mild OCD typically require about 10 hours of therapist therapy, with home exercises in between sessions. If your OCD is more severe, you may require a longer treatment period.
Certain psychiatric drugs can aid in the management of OCD’s obsessions and compulsions. Antidepressants are frequently tried first. The following antidepressants have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of OCD:
- Adults and children’s clomipramine (Anafranil) 10 years old and up
- Fluoxetine (Prozac) is a drug that is used to treat depression in both adults and children. 7 years old and up
- Fluvoxamine is a drug that is used to treat both adults and children. 8 years old and up
- Only adults should take paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva).
- Sertraline (Zoloft) is a prescription medication for adults and children aged 6 and up.
Other antidepressants and psychiatric drugs may be prescribed by your doctor. Selected serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most often prescribed antidepressants (SSRIs). An SSRI works by raising the amount of serotonin in your brain, which can help with OCD.
Possible side effects include:
- you’re angry, shaky, or worried
- being unwell or feeling sick
- constipation or diarrhea
- sleeping issues (insomnia)
- low sex drive
- Suicide danger. Although most antidepressants are typically safe, the FDA mandates that all antidepressants include black box warnings, the most stringent prescription cautions. When children, teenagers, and young adults under the age of 25 start taking antidepressants, they may have an increase in suicide thoughts or behavior, especially in the first few weeks or when the dose is altered. If you have suicidal thoughts, call your doctor or seek emergency care right away. Keep in mind that antidepressants, by increasing mood, are more likely to minimize suicide risk in the long run.
Is there any way I can cure OCD without taking drugs?
If an OCD sufferer simply quits avoiding anxiety triggers, refuses to escape unreasonable fear by neutralizing it with a ritual, and fights the need to seek reassurance, the fuel that runs the OCD engine will be cut off. Like a car that runs out of petrol, the OCD will eventually stop, to a greater or lesser amount.
There are several important things you can do to manage stress and anxiety associated with OCD.
- Make a sleep schedule that you can stick to.
- Make fitness a part of your daily regimen.
- Consume a healthy, well-balanced diet.
- Seek help from family and friends you can trust.
Obsessive-Compulsive Illness (OCD) is a type of cognitive disorder that affects many adults. Although OCD cannot be totally cured, it can be significantly improved by using therapeutic and mental health care techniques.