Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a complex mental disorder that most of us have at least heard referenced in conversations or in popular culture. Those who have seen the USA crime-comedy show Monk got a glimpse into the intrusive thought patterns that tend to characterize behaviors of agoraphobic and germaphobic OCD. The truth is, OCD’s complexity extends far beyond what you might see on TV or read about in a book.
OCD is a disorder that tends to manifest early and be a life-long issue. But it is highly treatable with the aid of licensed professionals. This is why it is important for you to contact a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist if you think you might have OCD and wish to seek treatment. This article discusses some of the basics of OCD, such as causes and symptoms. However, you should not take it as a definitive source of diagnosis.
What Is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
OCD is a mental disorder that is commonly characterized by repetitious thoughts and/or behaviors. Obsessions manifest in the form of persistent and repeated impulses, thoughts, and urges. Usually, which a person will try to repress or eliminate them by performing compulsive actions. Compulsions are repetitious mental or behavioral actions that target decreasing the anguish or anxiety aroused by obsessive thought patterns.
Many of us adults can explain the objectives of their compulsive behaviors. We can do this even if we do not necessarily understand what is triggering the obsessive thoughts and why it triggers them. Children, on the other hand, tend to have more difficulty in articulating the goals of their compulsive behaviors. So it is important to pay attention to behavioral cues.
Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
The presence of obsessive thoughts and manifestation of compulsive behaviors are the two most clear-cut symptoms of OCD. You must show at least one of these two symptoms in order to qualify for a diagnosis. But many people present with both symptoms, as well as some of the following diagnostic criteria and correlated symptoms.
- Obsessions and/or compulsions consume at least 1 hour of the day;
- Symptoms are not directly linked to a physical condition or to substance use;
- Symptoms cannot be explained as being part of another mental condition;
- Fear of contamination or filthiness;
- Continuous sexual thoughts or impulses;
- Thoughts that you might cause harm to others;
- Thoughts that you might harm yourself;
- Constantly checking things;
- Constant counting (sometimes involving certain numbers or skipping odd or even numbers).
Causes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
The precise causes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are currently unknown. But scientific research and numerous case studies are attempting to uncover the root causes of OCD. Some research indicates that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the result of a lapse in the communication of the neurotransmitter (which are the body’s chemical messengers) serotonin, which relays messages between the brain’s frontal cortex and its posterior regions.
Research also emphasizes the potential genetic inheritance of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD is a common symptom of certain genetically-inherited illnesses, such as schizophrenia, certain types of epilepsy, and Parkinson’s. Currently, our best hope of studying the inheritance of OCD comes from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which scans the blood flow throughout the brain in order to show the brain’s activity.
Researchers are finding that the cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical (CSTC) pathway in the brain experiences hyperactivity in patients with OCD. The CSTC is home to the orbitofrontal cortex, which is responsible for our behaviors based on motivation and emotions. It also holds for whether we react to stimuli in inhibitory ways. Hyperactivity in this part of the brain might explain why those of us with OCD have difficulty controlling our compulsive actions. Treatments based on this research currently develop to treat severe cases of OCD.
7 Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Treatment Options
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is treated in a number of ways. Treatment methods focus on the individual’s particular obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. It is easy to notice that no two patients with OCD think and behave in exactly the same way. Currently, the most effective treatments for OCD are a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and medications. Other methods for treating OCD include the below.
- Exposure and Response Prevention: A style of CBT that exposes you to your OCD-triggering stimuli and has you abstain from responding to it;
- Day Programs;
- Inpatient Hospitalization;
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: This treatment method coaches mindfulness as a way to accept our emotional experiences and committing to how we wish to live our lives;
- Deep Brain Stimulation: This involves generating pulses in the brain via electrodes placed on the brain;
- Gamma Knife;
- Neurosurgery: This method is reserved for the most severe cases, as a last resort technique.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Examples
While many of us have seen OCD depicted on shows like Monk, there are many more examples of OCD in fiction and reality. However, most of us with OCD have learned how to hide our compulsive behaviors when we are in public. Nineteenth Century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard struggled with symptoms of OCD, which are present in much of his writing. American aviator Howard Hughes had OCD tendencies and admitted them. Quite appropriately, Leonardo DiCaprio (who also has OCD) played him in the film The Aviator. Comedian Howie Mandel has openly embraced and spoken out about his OCD, often using it as material for his stand-up comedy.
Less-obvious examples of OCD include:
- Justin Timberlake: Only allows certain types of food to have in his refrigerator;
- Katy Perry: Brushes her teeth up to six times a day;
- David Beckham: Admits to rearranging hotel rooms in order to feel secure;
- Charlie Sheen: Opened up to Dr. Oz about his compulsive behaviors;
- Rose McGowan: Her OCD is a comorbidity of her agoraphobia.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a widely-studied psychiatric disorder. Although there is still some mystery regarding its origins, science is well on its way to uncovering the root cause of OCD. There are multiple types of treatment that have proved to be effective, and symptoms are highly treatable for most people.
This article is an overview of OCD and not a source of diagnosis. So it is imperative that you contact a licensed professional if you think you have OCD and wish to receive treatment.
The images are from depositphotos.com.