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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Guide

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that causes an individual to have obsessions or unreasonable thoughts and fears that cause them to perform compulsive acts or behaviors in an effort to cope with the fear. People who suffer from OCD may or may not realize that they have certain obsessive behaviors and in some cases they even realize that the obsessions are unrealistic but they still cannot control their minds to stop the obsessing and the compulsive behaviors.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder causes the individual to feel driven to perform a certain task in order to prevent a certain outcome. People may obsess about contamination or germs and as a result they will repeatedly wash their hands, clean their homes or perform other obsessive tasks in an effort to prevent contamination or coming into contact with germs. Ritualistic behavior is a common outcome that results from an individual trying to cope with obsessions.

OCD Symptoms

Obsessive-compulsive disorder include symptoms that are on the obsession side and the compulsion side. Basically, people with OCD have obsessive thoughts about a cause and in effect they perform compulsive behaviors in an effort to prevent the believed or perceived outcome of the obsession.

Symptoms of obsession include repeated and persistent ideas, thoughts or images. Impulses or unwanted ideas are involuntarily thought and they usually have no validity or make no sense. Obsessions will intrude when an individual is trying to do something and can cause difficulty with performing routine tasks.

Some common obsessions revolve around themes such as fear of contamination or germs, the need to have all things in order or to be symmetrical, having horrific or aggressive impulses or having sexual images or thoughts. Some common obsessions that may result in these themes include a fear of contamination as a result of touching a public shopping cart, toilet or when shaking someone’s hand, a fear or doubt that arises relating to whether or not the door was locked or the stove was turned off before leaving the house, images of hurting a loved one or replaying pornographic images in the mind over an over again.

Compulsion symptoms that may accompany OCD include are behaviors that are repeated as a result of the obsession. These repetitive behaviors are performed as an effort of the individual to prevent the anxiety or stress that relates to the obsessions. People with obsessive compulsive disorder may think that if they perform certain behaviors then the likelihood of a certain outcome may be eliminated but without the behaviors they feel extremely anxious that something negative or bad will happen.

Some common compulsions include washing the hands over and over again to prevent contamination, performing the same action repeatedly, or counting certain patterns. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder may check the doors of the home repeatedly to make sure that they are locked or they may check the stove over and over again to assure that it is off. These compulsions may happen over and over again and can take time away from the ability to perform other tasks making it difficult for an individual to live a normal life.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Causes

The causes of obsessive compulsive disorder are not fully understood. Like many other anxiety or mental disorders, it is thought that OCD could be caused by biological factors, environmental factors and even may result due to a lack of serotonin in the brain. Doctors and researchers are not fully sure about what causes the OCD but they have even found in some studies that obsessive compulsive disorder may even result in children who have had strep throat.

Evidence shows that OCD may result when changes in the body’s natural chemistry or brain function are present. Some people may be genetically predispositioned with a genetic component that can result in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Specific genes that may cause this predisposition have not been identified by researchers yet.

Additionally, the level of serotonin in the brain may also contribute to the likelihood of an individual having OCD. Studies have found that people who have OCD and take medication to increase the action of serotonin in the brain have reduced symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Controversial studies also exists that link strep throat group A beta-hemolytic streptococcal pharyngitis in children to later onset of obsessive compulsive disorder but such evidence has not been confirmed as the cause of OCD.

OCD Treatments

People with OCD may benefit from certain types of medication and from therapy or counseling. Psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven to be very effective at treating anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Although there is not a cure, OCD treatment can help to control the symptoms so that they do not rule the life of the individual.

Cognitive behavioral therapy provided by rehab centers and specialized therapists can help people with obsessive-compulsive disorder to reverse negative thought processes and behaviors or change them into positive ones. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a process of retraining the thought patterns and routines of an individual so that compulsions are no longer necessary in order to deal with the anxiety.

Exposure and response prevention is a common method of therapy that is used to treat the symptoms of OCD. People who obsess over something are exposed to the trigger in a safe environment while a therapist helps them to learn how to stop responding to the trigger in a compulsive way. For instance, the individual with obsessive-compulsive disorder may obsess about germs or contamination so the therapist will have them make a mess or get dirty and then not wash their hands. Anxiety for the individual will build until it reaches the peak and then it will begin to dissipate, during this time the therapist will talk to the individual and walk them through a process of coping with the anxiety and not giving in to the compulsion.

Therapy provided at rehab centers may take many sessions and could even include group or family sessions. The ultimate goal of therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder is to effectively teach the individual how to cope with anxiety in a positive way without giving in to compulsions. Upon completion of therapy, most people with obsessive-compulsive disorder can live a more manageable life.

Certain antidepressants may also be used to treat OCD. Antidepressants are helpful because they increase the serotonin levels in the brain and help to reduce the symptoms of OCD. The most common antidepressants prescribed for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder are Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil but there are many others.

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