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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Updated on May 19, 2015

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder is also known as OCD.

As humans we all have habits or repetitive behaviours such as washing our hands after using the washroom, taking a shower before bed, or even locking the before we go to sleep. These are completely normal activities and are considered more of a routine than an obsession

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder the fourth most common mental disorder/anxiety disorder affecting 1-2% of the population. This anxiety disorder includes unwanted and repeated thoughts and ideas.These thoughts are often thought of as "intrusive" and unwanted. And often produce feelings of fear, worry, uneasiness, and apprehension. Obsessive Compulsive disorder can affect pretty much anyone of any age.

A person suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder often carries out repetitive behaviours in order to relieve these obsessive thoughts. These compulsions are carried out so often that if the suffer does not complete these tasks it can cause great anxiety in their lives. These compulsive tasks begin to take over to sufferers life, as many of these tasks can be very time consuming resulting in missed days of work and/or school. Such tasks can also lead to emotional and financial distress.

This anxiety disorder must be taken very seriously and requires medical attention. Without treatment it is possible for OCD to worsen in time.

The Cause of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The cause of Obsessive Compulsive disorder is not completely known. However, it is thought that both biological and psychological factors have something to do with it.

Theories of the Cause of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Behavioural Theory

This theory suggests that sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may associate certain situations or objects with fear and anxiety. They then will perform rituals in order to reduce this fear and anxiety. Usually taking place when the person is under high amounts of stress. Rather than confronting their fears they will go to great lengths to avoid these objects/situations of fear.

Cognitive Theory

This theory focuses on how people may misinterpret their thoughts and ideas. While most people are able to push out or ignore unwanted or disturbing thoughts. Someone with OCD is more likely to be strongly affected by these thoughts. They will then respond as if the thought was a real threat to their lives rather than just a thought running through their mind. The cause of this is believed to be due to previously learned false beliefs or ideas.

Psychodynamic Theory

This theory suggests that the sufferer is dealing with an unconscious conflict. The sufferer is fighting to suppress, resolve or cope with these thoughts and ideas. It is believed that these conflicts most commonly arise when the person is wanting to act on a desire. However, this desire is not within socially acceptable behaviour. These thoughts are then redirected onto something that the person is able to control and is more socially acceptable. Therefore, developing obsessive compulsive tendencies.

Other Possible Causes

Serotonin aka 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)

Serotonin is a chemical in the brain (also found in the GI tract) that is used to transmit signals from one brain cell to another. The functions of serotonin include; sleep, appetite, mood, learning, vasoconstriction and more. OCD is often thought to be related to a low level of serotonin as all the medications used to treat OCD raise these levels.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Symptoms

 Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a complex disorder with complex symptoms.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may include repetitive obsessions (thoughts, images, or ideas) and compulsions (such as counting or hand washing) that will interfere with the sufferers life. These obsessions and compulsions are excessive and unreasonable. They may even prevent the person from leaving their home or they may be consistently late for important events such as work or school.

Someone with OCD performs these behaviours in order to deal with the anxiety they are experiencing. They feel that if they do not perform these actions that a "negative unrealistic" event will occur. For example, if the person does not continuously wash their hands they will contract a deadly illness. Yes, it is possible to pick illnesses, such as the common cold, from your hands. And it is important to frequently wash your hands. A person with OCD may wash their hand every 15 minutes or so. Even though they have not even left their home.

The obsessions and compulsions experienced by someone with OCD are far more extreme than the habits performed by the majority of the population. A habit is a recurrent, frequent, repetition of an action that is usually done unconsciously and may be hard to give up. For example, someone with a habit may always check that the stove is off before leaving the house. Once they see that the stove is no longer on they are able to leave and the stove is then forgotten. Someone with OCD may check that stove 20 times before they are able to leave the house and experience great anxiety while they are gone thinking that the house may burn down while they are at work.


Treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy

With the help of a Cognitive/Behavioural Therapist people with OCD can work through their obsessive and compulsive tendencies. This type of treatment is commonly used for OCD. However, it is not always successful.

This type of therapy is often referred to as exposure and prevention. What is meant by this is the therapist will expose the individual with OCD to the thoughts and situations that are the cause anxiety. The therapist will also slowly prevent them from performing their usual rituals. While experiencing this anxiety.

Before this type of treatment can be done the person with OCD must agree with treatment. Once they have agreed to the treatment the therapist will then begin the process while making notes on the response to the treatment.

The goal of this type of therapy is to change the person's negative thinking. And to help them resist their usual urges to continue compulsive behaviours.


Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI)

It is thought that one of the main causes of OCD, is low levels of serotonin. So it only makes sense to prescribe an SSRI. SSRI's keep high levels of serotonin in the synapses of the nerve cells in the brain. These drugs do so by inhibiting serotonin reuptake by the brain. If the brain was able to reuptake the serotonin the signal to produce more serotonin would be shut off. Since this medication prevents that from happening more serotonin is then produced.

SSRI Drug Examples

SSRI drug names you may be familiar with.

  • Prozac
  • Paxil
  • Celexa
  • Zoloft

Hoarding is often seen with people with OCD.
Hoarding is often seen with people with OCD. | Source


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    • blairtracy profile image

      blairtracy 6 years ago from Canada

      Thank-you for your comment. And I am glad to hear that you are now doing better!

    • stephaniedas profile image

      Stephanie Das 6 years ago from Miami, US

      Cool hub! I used to work with homeless clients, and a lot of these strange behaviors were exhibited in the shelter. I also think that I used to exhibit mild forms of these behaviors as a child...I'd wash my hands until they cracked and bled, and I'd sanitize everything in the house. It is embarrassing to talk about now, but it is true.

      Now that I am an adult, I can see that these behaviors were probably my way of dealing with family stress, and they were resolved when I started psychotherapy for my depression when I was a teenager. I was indirectly cured by working out through my anger and sadness.

      Kudos for writing a hub about something that quite a few people may unknowingly suffer from. I think of OCD as more of a symptom than a disease. The disease is the trauma that leads to the disorder.

      Voted up and interesting.