Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder General Facts
-What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that is characterized by unwanted thoughts that produce anxiety and repeated behaviors that try to remove the anxiety. Obsessions are defined as intrusive and irrational thoughts (example: constantly thinking that one left the stove on) that may cause anxiety in the OCD patient, and compulsions are repeated rituals meant to decrease the anxiety. Although everybody may exhibit these symptoms at some point, OCD patients are plagued with obsessions and compulsive to the point where it begins to severely interfering with one’s life (example: taking a two hour shower everyday in order to stay clean).
-What are the symptoms to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
The symptoms of OCD are uncharacteristic amount of obsessions and compulsions that usually take up over one hour per day. Several common obsessions include: a fear of harm to yourself or a loved one, a need to do things perfectly, and a fear of getting dirty and infected. Some common compulsives acts include: washing and checking over things multiple times despite having done so already, counting while doing another compulsive action, moving things in a “perfect” order, hoarding, and repeating things verbally.
-Who gets Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 2% of the US population will suffer through OCD at some point in their life and according to the International OCD Foundation about 2-3 million American adults currently have OCD.
OCD typically begins to appear in people either when they are a child between the ages 10 to 12 or during their late teens and early adulthood, but OCD can start at any time from preschool to adulthood.
-What are the causes to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
Scientists still do not know the exact cause of OCD, but there are several hypotheses.
There has a lot of research showing a link between OCD and abnormalities with serotonin machinery. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which plays a part in regulating anxiety and communicating between neurons. The current proposed model is that OCD patients have defective serotonin receptors where the receptors are unable to bind serotonin, which results in those receptors being understimulated and thus unable to regulate anxiety. It has been proposed that a brain injury may result in this condition, but the results have been far from being conclusive.
There also seems to be a genetic component to OCD as people with OCD typically had someone before them who had the same disorder (if you have OCD, there seems to be 25% chance that one of your immediate family members will have it). It has been proposed that there may be a mutation in the genes that encode for serotonin machinery. However, mutated genes do not explain the entire picture, and some scientists have proposed that environmental factors such as illnesses and ordinary life stresses may combine with these mutated genes to lead to OCD symptoms.
-How is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder treated?
There is treatment available for people, but unfortunately, there is no cure. OCD is a chronic disease, but the symptoms, if the disorder is properly treated, may be decreased dramatically, enough so that OCD no longer severely interferes with the daily lives of the patients.
The most common form of treatment is to take medication, usually SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which prevents serotonin from being reabsorbed in neurons. This allows more serotonin to bind to the serotonin receptors, which researchers believe allows greater regulation of anxiety. Patients who take medication usually see an improvement in their symptoms by 10 weeks.
Another common form of treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which involves the patient learning to cope with their anxiety without doing something to relieve the anxiety. For instance, the patient may be asked to touch a dirty object and then be restrained from washing their hands for several hours. This is done with the hope that the patient will eventually experience less anxiety from their obsessive thoughts and thus become less preoccupied with performing compulsive behaviors meant to relieve those anxieties.
Usually a combination of both treatment methods leads to the best results