Obsessive compulsive disorder is a type of anxiety disorder in which sufferers try to control their anxiety through repetitive habits, thoughts and cycles of actions. People with obsessive compulsive disorder (also often referred to as OCD) have frequent, continuous negative thoughts and fears which they believe will become actualities if they do not complete certain rituals, patterns and habits. People with mild OCD may be able to live a fairly normal life and their OCD rituals and habits may go unnoticed by others but for people with moderate to severe OCD it may directly negatively affect their lives and become debilitating to the extent that maintaining a job and even leaving their house may become extremely difficult. According to The International OCD Foundation around 1 in 10 or between 2 and 3 million Americans suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder.
Symptoms of OCD:
Obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms can vary from individual to individual but typical signs of OCD can include:
- Obsessive fears
- Repetitive negative thoughts
- Feeling ashamed or punishable for thinking negative thoughts
- Need for order, neatness, symmetry
- Fear that if chores aren’t completed at a set time and order something bad will happen
- Fear of dirt and germs
- Obsessive thoughts of dying or becoming unwell
Obsessive compulsions can include:
- Washing hands repeatedly
- Bathing/showering obsessively
- Cleaning obsessively
- Completing tasks in a certain order
- Obsessive counting aloud or mentally
- Praying repeatedly or repeating other religious rituals
- Turning things on an off a certain amount of times, such as light switches
- Having a word, phrase or thought stuck in the mind for an abnormal amount of time
- Hoarding or collecting items obsessively and that have no monetary value
Although the exact causes of OCD are unknown it is usually determined as either down to environmental or biological factors or a combination of the two.
Environmental factors and environmental stressors may lead to a development of OCD and these can include:
- Experiencing physical or mental abuse
- Death of a loved one
- Suffering from an illness or someone close to you suffering from an illness
- Work or academic issues
- Relationship problems
Biological factors can also play a key influence on people with OCD and research has suggested that people with low levels of serotonin can make people susceptible to developing or suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder. There is also some evidence that OCD sufferers often suffer from additional anxiety disorders, making OCD a co-occurring anxiety disorder for many.
Tests and Diagnosis for OCD:
There is no specific laboratory or blood test that can be completed to diagnose OCD but it can be diagnosed by a general practitioner doctor or psychiatrist. The doctor will typically ask their patient a list of specific questions regarding their anxiety and how they cope with it and form a diagnosis from there. It is important for the patient to be completely honest with their doctor in their answers as diagnosing OCD can be quite difficult as distinguishing OCD from general anxiety disorder can be a challenge. Once a diagnosis is made, a doctor will usually prescribe medication to help their patient cope with the disorder and also likely advise that they seek additional psychotherapy treatment from a counselor, cognitive behavioral therapist or a psychiatrist.
Drugs and Treatment for OCD:
In addition to psychotherapy and/or cognitive behavioral therapy, sufferers of OCD may also be prescribed one (or several) of the following OCD medication to help them manage their anxiety disorder:
Once effectively treated, OCD can become a very manageable disorder in which sufferers can learn to live a fully functioning lifestyle with the disorder or may even be able to overcome the disorder all together. Although there is no specific way a person can prevent OCD from developing, there are many ways it can be effectively treated.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Resources:
For more information on obsessive compulsive disorder see the following links: