Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder in which a person will perform rituals to reduce anxiety. OCD causes the affected person to perform rituals, or compulsive habits. These rituals temporarily reduce the discomfort that comes with anxiety.

The anxiety that a person with OCD experiences is triggered by obsessive thoughts. These thoughts are difficult to manage. They are only eased by performing compulsive rituals.

People with OCD repeat rituals in effort to ease the discomfort that is caused by anxiety and obsessive thoughts.

Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

OCD is a disorder that causes several different types of symptoms. These symptoms cause a great deal of discomfort for the affected person.

A person with OCD will perform compulsive rituals to ease the obsessive thoughts. A person with OCD does not enjoy or want to engage in the compulsive behavior. It is the only way they know how to ease the distressing obsessive thoughts and anxiety.

Symptoms of OCD are broken down into 2 categories:

Obsessive thoughts

These thoughts are strong and withstanding. They are oppressive and can come from nowhere. Most of the thoughts are disturbing and nonsensical.

  • Violent or horrific thoughts
  • Fears of germs, dirt, danger, etc.
  • Fears about the self or loved ones being in danger
  • Obsessive thoughts and suspicions
  • Associating certain objects, numbers, patterns, animals, etc. with malice or danger
  • Obsessively strict following of religious beliefs
  • Intrusive and distressing sexual thoughts (even without the urge or desire to act on thoughts)
  • Intrusive and distressing violent thoughts (even without the urge or desire to act on thoughts)

Compulsions

Used to temporarily quiet the obsessive thoughts.

  • Preoccupation or obsession for cleanliness
  • Compensatory behaviors to rid skin and environment of all germs
  • The need for everything to be organized or aligned in a certain way
  • Extreme discomfort when something is out of order
  • Obsessive categorizing, counting, or checking of household appliances
  • Skin picking or hair pulling
  • Ritual acts around house, like checking appliances, re-checking locked doors, etc.
  • Ritual behaviors (clicking teeth, counting on fingers, breathing in a certain pattern, blinking, etc.)
  • Excessively washing hands
  • Rituals
  • The need to complete certain tasks on a certain number or rhythm

Causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

There are several different factors that may cause OCD. A person will develop OCD depending on their own unique circumstances. Symptoms for OCD typically surface between the ages of 10 and 15 years old. An anxious child or adolescent is at increased risk of developing OCD.

Common risk factors of OCD include:

Family history

Research suggests there is a link between a family history of anxiety or depression and the onset of OCD. People who have a direct family member who suffer from one of the following are at increased risk of suffering from OCD themselves:

  • OCD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Upbringing

Someone who suffers from OCD may have been brought up in an environment with strict rules. A person who were brought up by disciplinarian parents are at increased risk of suffering from OCD. People who grew up in abusive homes are also at increased risk for developing OCD.

Poor stress management skills

Failure to develop healthy stress management skills increases the risk of suffering from OCD

History of mental illness

Suffering from one of the following mental health disorders places a person at increased risk of developing OCD:

Treatment Options for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Treatment for OCD is unique to the treatment of other types of anxiety disorders. Treatment for OCD typically uses Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). ERP derives from cognitive-behavioral therapy.

The goal of Exposure and Response Prevention to reduce the compulsive reaction to triggers. ERP also uses CBT techniques to reduce obsessive thoughts and ritualistic behaviors.

It is not uncommon for OCD to be treated with medication in conjunction with therapy. This depends on the affected person’s unique case. Their mental health professional may prescribe antidepressants or antipsychotic medication.

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