Obsessive-compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, also referred to as OCD, is characterized by continual thoughts or fears that cause obsessive behavior. These fears can often be considered unreasonable by the type of reaction they create in the patient. An example of obsessive-compulsive disorder may be a fear of germs that causes the patient to wash his or her hands excessively throughout the day. Constant checking of door locks and appliances may also imply this type of mental illness. When these disturbing fears or thoughts lead to obsessions that cause any type of compulsive behavior, obsessive-compulsive disorder may be the cause.

Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

While symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder may vary by individual and circumstance, there are certain signs to look for when considering this diagnosis. As with any disorder of this type, some symptoms may be similar, so it's recommended to seek professional advice before choosing treatment options.

  • Obsessive behavior that interferes with normal routine
  • Feelings of isolation or helplessness
  • Sleeping problems
  • Excessive fear of things such as germs, loss or the anticipation of terrible events
  • Being excessively superstitious
  • Constant straightening, arranging or accumulating of items at home or work
  • Panic or terrorizing thoughts
  • Cold sweating or dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal problems and nausea

Causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The exact cause of OCD is not known, however research has pointed to several theories, which may or may not pertain to every patient. Depending upon whether symptoms present themselves in childhood or do not begin until the person is an adult, may help to uncover possible causes. Children with obsessive-compulsive disorder are often subject to shame or guilt by parents or other significant people in their lives. These feelings may lead to neurotic behaviors, such as those present with OCD. Alternatively, adults who develop OCD may be genetically inclined toward this type of mental illness, or be experiencing a chemical imbalance that can affect mood and behavioral processing. Also, certain physical ailments, such as streptococcal infection, can adversely affect nerve cells in the brain.

Diagnosing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder may be a little less difficult to diagnose than other mental disorders, due to the apparent and unique behaviors of this disease. An assessment by a psychologist or psychiatrist may help to determine whether or not this is the main issue, or a by-product of another more prevalent ailment. Often, professionals will ask questions regarding family history, possible trauma and feelings regarding certain situations. Behavior will be observed and a diagnosis made accordingly.

Treatment Options for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

There are several treatment options available for people suffering from OCD. Depending upon the individual and situation, a combination of choices best suited for the patient may be most effective. There are many specialized processes for alleviating OCD thoughts and behavior, and generally, treatment options include the following:

  • Medication – anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication may be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment, depending upon the exact symptoms or potential causes of the disease
  • Counseling – psychotherapy can help to assist with the development of coping skills and ways to eliminate or refocus when particular symptoms or behaviors occur
  • Cognitive therapy – a process by which the patient learns to recognize triggers or certain behaviors as they are happening may help to avoid, eliminate or change symptomatic reactions
  • Dietary changes – certain lifestyle habits may be altered to help avoid symptoms or enhance brain functionality, such as learning positive eating habits and incorporating daily exercise
  • Meditation – regular practice of relaxation techniques can help the patient refocus and regain control of behavioral patterns
  • Support groups – joining others with similar tendencies can create a wealth of emotional support and ideas for self-improvement