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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to perform certain task over and over. In this condition some unreasonable thoughts (obsession) cause a person to perform repetitive behavior. The following article provides information about the various causes, symptoms, and treatment options available for this condition.
PsycholoGenie Staff
The symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) include both obsession and compulsions. It is a type of mental illness in which the person gets unreasonable thought, and to get rid of these thoughts the person performs the same task again and again. If these behavior or thoughts are not executed then there is an anxious feeling of incompleteness. Some of the behavior are normal everyday things, for example washing ones hands, checking doors or stoves, and some of the things can be unusual, like counting to ten, counting while waiting for someone, hoarding money, or other things. These symptoms may range from mild to severe. Treatment consists of antidepressants (Prozac or Zoloft for instance) and certain kinds of behavior therapy that are intended to help stop the behavior.

What is OCD?

It is an anxiety disorder that causes obsessions, which are irrational thoughts that the patient is unable to get rid of. Compulsions are usually the actions that relate to the obsessive thoughts. One example might be, thinking continuously that "My hands are full of germs", and therefore washing them over and over because one is not able to get the thought out of the mind. The symptoms cause a lot of stress, and sometimes so much embarrassment that the person is not comfortable to ask for professional counseling. The patient often tries to hide these obsessions and compulsions so that their friends won't think they are weird.

Causes

While medical researchers haven't been able to find exactly what causes OCD, family history is considered to be the contributing factor in this condition. Often it is found in more than one family member, signifying that it might be genetic. Other studies link it to chemical imbalance in several different areas of the brain.

Signs and Symptoms

Obsessions are involuntary, recurring, undesirable thoughts that frequent the patient's mind so much that, certain must be taken to eliminate or reduce the distressing thought. These obsessions are mostly concerning example, the need to be clean, repeated doubts, sexual thoughts, aggressive feelings and thoughts, and the need to be extremely orderly and neat. Compulsions are actions that a patient feels the need to perform because they are unable to let the doubts go even after all the evidence is there that the doubt is not needed. Some of the results of these compulsions may be seen, irritated hands from washing repeatedly, extreme reactions to otherwise normal situations such as slight messiness in a room.

Medical treatment should be sought if there comes a time when either the obsessions, the compulsions, or both have severe effect on the patients' life or those around him. Embarrassment is common in this condition, however, with the help of a cognitive behavior therapy the condition may be treated. Children may not always know when they are obsessing more than they should, so of course it's up to the parents to determine whether treatment is necessary for them.

Diagnosis
The general criteria for the diagnosis of this condition are:
  • The person should have obsessions, compulsions, or both.
  • The obsessions and compulsions are interfering the persons daily activities.
  • The recurrent thoughts are causing distress
  • In order to prevent these thoughts the person is performing certain other actions.
  • The actions performed in order to control the distress are not realistically related to the problem.

Treatment and Medications

Treatment includes medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. The treatment may not cure the condition, but might help in bringing the symptoms under control.

Psychotherapy
A counselor will perform all the necessary tests to diagnose the sometimes complicated emotional state. He might check for red, irritated hands that are caused by constant washing. In addition, he may inquire about the thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns of the person.
Cognitive behavior therapy is extremely beneficial for the treatment of this condition. In this therapy the counselor teaches the patient how to react to the condition in different manner. He teaches the patient different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to the situation. A type of this therapy is exposure and response prevention therapy. In this therapy the person is exposed to the situation which induces the compulsive action, and then the counselor teaches him how to resist the urge to perform the same action.

Medication
Antianxiety medication is also prescribed to treat this condition, however, this medication generally takes nearly three months to show the desired results. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are the most common drugs used to treat OCD. Serotonin is the chemical which present in the brain which carries the message from one neuron to other. These drugs block the transmission of the signals thereby preventing the repetitive actions. The drugs that are commonly used are Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, and Anafranil.

Disclaimer: This PsycholoGenie article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for the advice of a mental health expert.