Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts and behaviors, or obsessions and compulsions respectively, that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.
Signs and Symptoms
Obsessions are repeated unwanted thoughts, urges, or mental images/ideas that cause anxiety. Common symptoms include:
- Fear of germs or contamination
- Fear of unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, and harm
- Fear of harm to other
- Fear of self-harm
- Having things symmetrical or in a perfect order
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought. Common compulsions include:
- Excessive cleaning or washing
- Ordering and arranging things in perfect order
- Repeatedly checking on things
- Compulsive counting
Some individuals with OCD also have a tic disorder. Motor tics are sudden, brief, repetitive movements, such as eye blinking and other eye movements, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and head or shoulder jerking. Common vocal tics include repetitive throat-clearing, sniffing, or grunting sounds.
Risk Factors & Causes
The causes of OCD are unknown, but risk factors include:
- Family studies have shown that people with first-degree relatives (such as a parent, sibling, or child) who have OCD are at a higher risk for developing OCD themselves. The risk is higher if the first-degree relative developed OCD as a child or teen. Ongoing research continues to explore the connection between genetics and OCD and may help improve OCD diagnosis and treatment.
- Brain Structure and Functioning
- Imaging studies have shown differences in the frontal cortex and subcortical structures of the brain in patients with OCD. There appears to be a connection between the OCD symptoms and abnormalities in certain areas of the brain, but that connection is not clear. Research is still underway. Understanding the causes will help determine specific, personalized treatments to treat OCD.
- People who have experienced abuse (physical or sexual) in childhood or other trauma are at an increased risk for developing OCD.
- In some cases, children may develop OCD or OCD symptoms following a streptococcal infection—this is called Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS).
Treatments and Therapies
OCD is typically treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two. Although most patients with OCD respond to treatment, some patients continue to experience symptoms.
Sometimes people with OCD also have other mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphic disorder, a disorder in which someone mistakenly believes that a part of their body is abnormal. It is important to consider these other disorders when making decisions about treatment.
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