Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

OCD is a mental disorder that affects all ages and demographics equally. It occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.  According to the International OCD Foundation, obsessions are thoughts, images or impulses that occur over and over again and feel outside of the person’s control while compulsions are repetitive behaviors or thoughts that a person uses to make their obsessions go away. 

Examples of compulsions:

  • Excessive showering or hand washing
  • Arranging things by color, size or type of object 
  • Repeating tasks multiple times to assure they are “right” 

Examples of obsessions:

  • Doubts about locking doors or turning the stove off 
  • Fear of getting contaminated by touching objects. 
  • Stressing when objects are not in the “right” way 

What are the causes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three general events that can increase the risk of developing or triggering OCD.

  • Family history: having family members with the disorder can increase the risk of getting it
  • Stressful life events: traumatic events can trigger disturbing thoughts leading to OCD
  • Other mental health disorders: can develop on people with a history of anxiety, depression and/or substance abuse

How is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) diagnosed?

Diagnosing OCD is mainly based on a psychological evaluation. This can help patients discuss thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns to determine if they are presenting with obsessions and compulsions. A physical exam may also be done to determine if the symptoms are caused by a physical condition. 

How is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) treated?

Treatment is based on the management of symptoms. The two main treatments are psychotherapy and medications. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help by gradually exposing patients to feared objects or obsessions and helping them resist the impulse of compulsions. This practice may take time to work but it can improve the patient’s quality of life by teaching them how to manage their obsessions and compulsions. Medications can also be used as treatment; antidepressants are usually tried first. You can find a list approved by the U.S. Food and Drug administration here.

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