Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a psychiatric disorder that is characterized by the DSM-V as manifesting recurrent and persistent thoughts, images, and impulses that are intrusive or distressing that the patient then tries to suppress or neutralize through a compulsion. The compulsion is either an act or a thought itself that is repeated to neutralize the anxiety around the obsession. Many people like to label themselves as being “OCD” when they are very much fixated on things being orderly, but patients with true OCD hate the way these feelings and behaviors consume much of their lives with very negative consequences.
Some Examples of OCD:
- Leaving and returning home multiple times to make sure the stove is off
- Showering multiple times per day for over an hour to make sure one is clean
- Fearing contamination so much that one washes their hands till they bleed
- Having to do things a certain number of times over and over again
- Skin picking, hair pulling and nail-biting are considered in the spectrum
Obsessive compulsive disorder has been portrayed in the media numerous times. Tony Shalhoub’s character in the TV show Monk and Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie As Good As It Gets both have OCD. OCD can also be seen in Leonardo Dicaprio’s portrayal of Howard Hughes in The Aviator. In addition, the TV show Hoarders is a dramatic example of people who are so obsessed that they might need an object, no matter how old or trivial, that they refuse to get rid of it, overfilling their homes to the point of health and safety concerns, and even condemnation. Obsessive compulsive disorder is often co-morbid with other anxiety disorders, ADHD, major depression, and autistic spectrum disorders. Interestingly, it also may be rapidly brought on following an onset of Group A strep infections in children in a syndrome called pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS).
How to Treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive compulsive disorder is best treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. First line agents often include drugs like Prozac, Zoloft and Luvox, which help the brain from being so obsessive. A form of cognitive behavioral therapy called exposure and response prevention can help the patient change catastrophizing negative thoughts so that they will not feel they have to engage in the compulsions despite their distress. This disorder can be hard to treat at times, as patients will often have to be on guard against the compulsions creeping back into their lives.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is OCD Behavior?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a disorder that involves recurring, intrusive thoughts or ideas (obsessions) that compel a person to do something repetitively (compulsions). While some people use the term “OCD behavior” colloquially, OCD is a serious disorder that affects a person’s ability to carry out their day-to-day activities and responsibilities.
What is the best treatment for OCD?
OCD is best treated with a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and psychiatric medication. Even people who have severe OCD can find relief with the right medication and an experienced therapist or psychologist.
What does OCD do to a person?
OCD causes people to have repeated unwanted thoughts, feelings, ideas or sensations; to get rid of these thoughts, they perform specific behaviors, often over and over (compulsions). Severe OCD can be debilitating and make it difficult to hold down a job, meet family obligations, and carry out everyday tasks.
What triggers OCD?
It’s believed that OCD is triggered by chemical, structural, and functional abnormalities in the brain, likely due to genetic factors.
Is OCD a serious mental illness?
Yes, OCD is a serious mental illness that causes people high levels of emotional distress and anxiety. While many people may prefer a clean home or feel the need to double-check that they’ve locked a door, the difference between these behaviors and OCD is that for someone with OCD, obsessions and compulsions disrupt their lives.
Does OCD get worse with age?
Yes, OCD often becomes worse with age, although this is not always the case. You may also find that your symptoms are exacerbated during stressful life events or significant changes.
What happens if OCD is untreated?
When OCD is left untreated, it can impact a person’s ability to live a fulfilling life. People with untreated OCD may have trouble leaving their home, maintaining employment, and carrying out everyday activities. It’s common for people who have OCD to experience depression and have suicidal thoughts without treatment.
Are you born with OCD or does it develop?
While researchers are still trying to answer this question, our best guess is that people are born with a biological predisposition to OCD due to hereditary factors. In some people, this predisposition causes them to develop OCD, perhaps due to environmental factors or life experience, while others do not.
Can someone with OCD live a normal life?
If you have OCD, you may feel overwhelmed by your obsessive thoughts and compulsions, but with treatment, you can live a normal, productive life. Your psychiatrist and counselor can help give you the tools you need to manage your disorder.
What is high functioning OCD?
A person with high functioning OCD has obsessions and compulsions just like anyone else with the condition, but they are better able to manage and hide their symptoms from others. If you have high functioning OCD, you may feel that you do not need treatment, but when OCD is left untreated, it can become worse and begin to impact your life in more noticeable ways.
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