Psychiatry, Psychotherapy

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Introduction to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety-related condition in which people experience obsessive intrusive thoughts and compulsive behavior.

Written by Doctify Team 27/04/2020

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety-related condition in which people experience obsessive intrusive thoughts and compulsive behavior. 1 in 50 people suffer from OCD at some point in their lives and it affects both women and men. Children can have mild compulsions such as avoiding cracks in the pavement or organising their toys but this usually goes away as they grow up – they do not often get OCD. OCD first starts to significantly interfere with a person’s life during teenage years or early 20s with symptoms coming and going. Most people don’t seek help until the problem has lasted many years and is beginning to severely affect their life. OCD can range from mild to severe where the obsessive-compulsive thinking only affects them for an hour to taking over their whole life.

What are the causes for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

It is unclear what causes OCD even though a number of things have been suggested. The condition can run in families and so it is thought that there is a genetic cause though no single genes have been found. Those with OCD have increased activity in parts of their brain compared to those without OCD. There is also an imbalance of serotonin (chemical transmitter) in the brain. Life events can also trigger OCD and those who have experienced abuse, neglect, social isolation or bullying are more likely to have OCD. The condition might be triggered in people susceptible to the condition by an important life event.

Stress does not cause OCD on its own but can make the symptoms worse.

What are the symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

There are four stages to OCD: (i) the unwanted thoughts thoughts that make you anxious (obsessions) (ii) the anxiety you feel; (iii) the things you do to reduce your anxiety (compulsions); (iv) usually a repetitive behaviour or mental act to relieve the anxiety; and (v) the temporary relief from compulsive behaviour until the obsession and anxiety return to start the cycle again.

How is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder treated?

OCD is a fairly well treated condition with people either cured of it or symptoms are reduced so that the disease does not impact upon their life to such as extent.

Treatment is a combination of physiological therapy and medical treatment.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): This type of therapy encourages you to face the fear brought on by the obsessive thoughts without counteracting them with compulsion.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI): In some people with OCD, there is an imbalance of serotonin in their brain. This medication helps reduce symptoms by altering the balance of chemicals. Common SSRIs to be prescribed include: Clomipramine, Escitalopram, Fluoxetine, Paroxetine. This list is not exhaustive and many others may be prescribed.

SSRI take a few weeks to work so you might not notice a change straight away but you should keep taking them. Side effects include headache and nausea but these should pass after a while.

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