What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
OCD is an anxiety disorder marked by excessive obsessions and compulsions that interfere with a person's normal routine.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is sometimes called the "disease of doubt," because people who have OCD deal with pathological doubt. That is, they cannot distinguish between what is possible, what is probable, and what is unlikely to happen.
Symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder typically appear between childhood and young adulthood and affect people from all races, social, and ethnic groups.
Causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:
There is no known singular cause of OCD. It's a brain disorder that likely has a genetic component.
Diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:
A trained therapist will be able to make a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder by looking for:
3) These obsessions and compulsions interfere with a person's daily routine.
What Are Obsessions?
- Recurrent, persistent thoughts, impulses, or images experienced during a disturbance that are intrusive and inappropriate and cause anxiety and distress.
- Thoughts, impulses, or images aren't just extra worries about real-life problems.
- The individual attempts to neutralize, ignore, or suppress thoughts, impulses, or images with some other thought or action.
- The individual has the awareness that these thoughts, impulses or images are the product of their own mind.
- Having occasional worries about illness, money, or safety is normal; it becomes unhealthy when these worries begin to dictate the individual's life.
What Is A Compulsion?
- The individual is driven to perform repetitive tasks (hand washing, checking and rechecking) or mental acts (praying, repeating words, counting) in response to an obsession or according to a rigid set of self-imposed rules that must be followed.
- The behaviors or mental acts aim to reduce anxiety and distress or prevent a dreaded situation or disaster. However, the physical or mental acts performed are excessive and have nothing realistically to do with preventing the dreaded situation.
- A bedtime ritual, morning routine, or other such routines are not compulsions. They are normal.
- Exposure to bodily fluids, germs, diseases, dirt, radiation, asbestos, or household chemicals.
- Fear of impulsively hurting oneself or another.
- Fear of stealing things, shouting obscenities, being responsible for something terrible happening.
- Concerns about exactness, evenness, a need to remember or know.
- Fear of losing or forgetting things.
- Superstitious about unlucky numbers, colors, signs.
- Excessive concern with morality.
Common Compulsions For People With OCD:
- Excessive hand washing, sometimes in a particular way.
- Excessive, extreme grooming or toileting routines.
- Excessive cleaning of house or items.
- Doing things to prevent contact with contaminants.
- Repeatedly checking that you did not harm yourself, or others and to make sure nothing bad happened.
- Rereading or rewriting.
- Repeating routine activities like getting up and down from a chair.
- Repeating activities in certain "safe" multiples.
- Repeating body movements (blinking, tapping, rubbing).
- Praying, mentally reviewing, or counting while performing tasks to prevent and avert disaster.
- Putting items in certain order.
Treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:
Doctors may prescribe a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRI's).
If SSRI's do not work to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, an older type of tricyclic antidepressant may be used.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (including exposure and ritual prevention methods) can eliminate the thought patterns for people with OCD.
Obstacles to Treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:
It can take 14-17 years from diagnosis for the person with OCD to get the right treatment. Why?
- People hide their symptoms. The stigma and embarrassment of having obsessive-compulsive disorder may delay onset of treatment.
- Public misconception. Obsessive-compulsive disorder only recently came onto the radar as a mental illness.
- Inability to afford proper medical care.
- Inability to find the right therapist to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Prevention of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:
As far as we know, there's no prevention for OCD; but it's not your fault. You may feel crazy, but it's a very real problem that can be dealt with. You may never be completely symptom-free, but there are ways to survive with OCD. Don't give up hope!
How Do I Help A Loved One With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
- Educate yourself about OCD. Learn everything you can about the disorder.
- Compulsive behaviors are symptoms, not character flaws.
- Don't allow OCD to take over your family life. Keep life as normal as possible.
- Do not participate your family member's OCD rituals. Participation = reassurance.
- Speak positively and with humor about the future. Clearly explain what you want to have happen rather than criticize past behavior.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Resources:
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Foundation: Non-Profit organization which educates the public, advocates for the OCD community, and supports research into obsessive-compulsive (and related) disorder and better treatments. Excellent, easy-to-understand information on an easy-to-navigate website.
OCD Tribe: Online community with blogs, news, polls, games, and therapy info.
The OCD Center of Los Angeles: Information on various forms of OCD, as well as support groups, therapy session schedules, links, resources, and suggested reading.
National Alliance on Mental Illness: Grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by mental illness.