Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Defining Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by having irrational fears or undesirable thoughts leading to a pressing need to repeat actions or rituals in order to get rid of the obsessions. People believe that performing these acts and rituals will rid themselves of the fears. Most of the symptoms displayed by patients suffering from OCD may be self-distressing and may bear an irreversible effect on the patients if left untreated. It is diputed among scientists that Kleptomania and Pyromania are the forms of OCD as in these disorders patients have urges to steal and to start fires respectively. But this theory is not conclusively proven among scientists yet.

People perform rituals compulsively to avoid the anxiety stemming out of obsessive behavior. Obsessions are the unpleasant thoughts that keep occurring despite an effort to control them. Obsessions usually result when patients feel uncomfortable and upset without a certain sense of balance, and perform actions (like frequent cleaning, checking things repeatedly etc.) to achieve an inner desired equilibrium. A more acute form of obsession could be the thought of a negative outcome if the perceived imbalance is not nullified. Compulsion, on the other hand is defined as the ritual that the patient believes he or she has to perform in order for his regular life to not get affected.

Signs and Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

  • Fear of being contaminated by germs
  • Fear of causing harm
  • Sexually explicit thoughts
  • Violent thoughts and images
  • Excessive religious or moral thoughts
  • Fear of losing things
  • Order and symmetry: the idea that everything must line up “just right.”
  • Superstitious thoughts
  • Excessive double-checking of locks, appliances and things
  • Repeatedly checking in on people to ensure their safety
  • Accumulating “junk” (old food containers etc.)

Causes and Risk Factors

Most scholars believe that OCD can be caused by both biological and psychological factors. Genetic predisposition towards compulsive behavior is a well-acknowledged cause of OCD. Evolutionary psychology suggests that OCD may have evolved out of the need of the nomadic homo-sapiens to constantly check for hygiene or to keep checking the environment for enemies. People with a history of military combat are particularly susceptible to a compulsive disorder to keep checking the environment for safety of their near ones.

In some extreme cases of OCD, patients tend to get anxious or stressed if the “equilibrium” that they are looking for is not maintained.

The combination of both may lead to negative outcomes such as constant anxiety, long-term stress, and heart disease. Some of the most common risk factors of OCD include:

  • Substance abuse
  • Chronic anxiety disorder
  • Other behavioral disorders and personality disorders
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Aggressiveness
  • Restlessness
  • Behaving in a paranoid way

Treatment

OCD can be treated in a number of ways. There are many psychological and pathological treatments that can help a patient overcome compulsive behavior, all of which can be found in a rehabilitation facility. Therapist may work with patients by helping them to manage their OCD using any of the following methods:

  1. Exposure and Response Prevention: This therapy involves recurring exposure of the patient to the exact source of obsession. With every exposure, the patient is asked to control his obsession with the compulsive behavior that he would otherwise have displayed. Over a period of time, the patients learn to accept that their compulsion with a particular action on encountering and external event was worthless.
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapy is commonly employed in treating OCD at the psychological level. This therapy focuses on the negative thoughts that a patient encounters and the excessive sense of responsibility he or she feels towards certain events. CBT teaches a patient to deal with the obsessive thoughts in a healthy and confident way.
  3. Group Therapy: Having affiliation to support groups with members suffering from OCD can help you overcome OCD in a fun way. Group therapy is useful for those who are okay with sharing their experiences in public and seeking feedback.

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