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Understanding OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Health Tips

What is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD as it is commonly referred, is a brain and behaviour disorder which generally leads to severe anxiety.

There are two main areas of OCD which are Obsessions and Compulsions, hence the name "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder". It's these obsessions and compulsions that take up lots of time and prevent the person from undertaking important everyday activities.

OCD affects the brain's internal warning system, which in turn alerts you to danger, even if it doesn't really exist. This can mean that unwanted thoughts and images are presented over and over in the brain causing intense anxiety and stress.

Although the causes of OCD are not fully understood, research has strongly suggested that one of the major causes is with the inability of the front part of the brain to communicate effectively with the deeper structures within the brain.

The chemical Serotonin is the brains messenger and a deficiency in this chemical is considered to be a major cause of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This is why OCD is commonly treated using Serotonin medications.

Obsessions and Compulsions

It's important to understand that there are two main areas that affect someone with OCD.

They are:-

Obsessions - These can be unwanted images, thoughts or impulses that play over and over in the persons mind. In most cases the person will be aware that the thoughts do not make any real sense, but this does not prevent the many associated feelings such as disgust, fear and doubt. The thoughts may also lead to discomfort and an attitude that "things have to be done just right" or in a precise way.

There are many common obsessions associated with OCD and these include:-

  • Fear of contamination
  • Fear of loss of control
  • Fear of harming other people
  • Perfectionism
  • Unwanted sexual thoughts
  • Religious obsessions

Compulsions - The compulsion aspect of OCD can be thought of as the activity the person will undertake in order to counteract or neutralise the obsessions.

People with OCD generally understand that the compulsions are only a temporary solution of escaping the obsessions, but feel it is the only way for them to cope in the present moment.

There are many forms of compulsions, but the main ones are:-

  • Washing and cleaning
  • Checking
  • Repeating
  • Arranging things
  • Collecting things
  • Mental compulsions

What Causes OCD?

Research has shown that OCD is most likely genetic and that it does run in the family. It is also thought that the gene associated with OCD can be induced by the stress of everyday life.

How Can OCD Be Diagnosed?

A trained professional will be able to diagnose as to whether a patient has OCD or not. Generally though, the signs will be that the person has certain obsessions that they combat using one or more of the compulsions listed above. It is these compulsions that get in the way of everyday activities that the person values.

What Kinds of People Are Affected by OCD?

It is believed that around 1 in 100 adults and 2 in every 100 children are affected by OCD. It also affects men, women, children and all races of people.

Statistics indicate that women are more likely to be affected by OCD than men.

Can OCD Be treated?

OCD can be treated using either or a combination of CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) or SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) antidepressant medication.

CBT is thought to be the most effective approach and is a form of talking therapy performed by a specialist psychological therapist. CBT is used with the patient to identify the negative thought patterns or false ideas they may have and deal with the way you behave to such thoughts.

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a form of CBT and is most commonly used to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

SSRI antidepressants are sometimes used when a patient has not responded well to CBT or ERP. SSRI's increase the levels of Serotonin in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter used in communication by the different parts of the brain.

Sources for OCD

There are many excellent sources on the internet for those looking for further information on OCD including:-