Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, commonly abbreviated as OCD, is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas and sensations. These are characterized as obsessions, or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something, called compulsions. Often times, the person carries out the behaviors or compulsions in order to get rid of the obsessive thoughts and ideas.

It is normal to occasionally go back and double check that the stove is turned off or that the car is locked. However, those who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder have obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that become so excessive, they interfere with daily life.

OCD is said to affect around 2.2 million American adults. OCD occurs alongside eating disorders, other anxiety disorders, or depression. It can affect both men and women. It usually appears in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. One third of adults with OCD have developed symptoms as children, revealing that OCD may run in the family.

The main causes of OCD aren’t fully understood; however, theories include:

The idea that OCD may be a result of changes in the body’s natural chemistry or brain functions. OCD may be genetic (though specific genes haven’t been identified).

Some environmental factors such as infections or any stressful experiences are said to sometimes trigger OCD.

The symptoms of OCD are characterized by two main categories: obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions – These are unwanted and intrusive thoughts, ideas, and feelings. They can include:

  • Constant irrational worry about dirt, germs, or contamination
  • Excessive concern with order, arrangement, and/or symmetry
  • Fear that negative or aggressive thoughts and impulses will cause personal harm or harm to a close friend/family member
  • Preoccupation with losing or throwing away objects with little or no value
  • Excessive concern about accidentally or purposefully injuring another person
  • Feeling overly responsible for the safety of others
  • Distasteful religious and sexual thoughts or images
  • Irrational or excessive feelings of doubt

Compulsions – These are ritualistic behaviors and routines that are performed to ease anxiety or distress (often preceded by obsessions). They can include:

  • Cleaning — Repeatedly washing hands, bathing, or cleaning the house, often for hours at a time
  • Checking — Checking and re-checking several to hundreds of times a day that the doors are locked, the stove is turned off, the hairdryer is unplugged, etc.
  • Repeating — Inability to stop repeating a name, phrase, or simple activity (such as going through a doorway over and over)
  • Mental rituals — Endless reviewing of conversations, counting repetitively, calling up “good” thoughts to neutralize “bad” thoughts, or excessive praying and using special words or phrases to neutralize obsessions

Symptoms of OCD are quite varied. They can come and go, improve or get worse. Severe OCD can keep a person from working or carrying out normal, day-to-day domestic responsibilities. People with OCD sometimes try to help themselves by avoiding situations that trigger any of their obsessions – this pattern of avoidance actually helps maintain the OCD. Sometimes drugs and alcohol are used to help regain a sense of calmness.

The 2 main treatments for OCD include psychotherapy and medication. Most of the time they are combined to provide the best therapeutical outcome.

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP): This is a form of psychotherapy that involves gradually exposing the person with OCD to a feared object or obsession. The patients are exposed to symptom triggers such as dirt, and taught healthy ways to cope with the anxiety. It helps patients manage their obsessions and compulsions and they slowly become desensitized to their triggers, lowering levels of anxiety.

Cognitive Therapy: This focuses on the catastrophic thoughts and exaggerated sense of responsibility felt as a result of OCD thinking. This form of psychotherapy focuses on teaching patients healthy and effective ways of responding to obsessive thoughts without resorting to compulsive behaviors and rituals.

Medication: In addition, medication, specifically antidepressants are prescribed to help control the obsessions and compulsions.
Common medications include:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox CR)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)


Written By SubhagaLaxman