Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Understanding OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Understanding OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder that is defined by repetitive behaviors involved in reducing anxiety, as well as intrusive thoughts that produce anxiety, or both. Day-to-day functioning can be difficult for someone with OCD since the symptoms of this disorder can be life-encompassing and seem inescapable. Statistics indicate that 1–3% of the population suffers from it. A person suffering from OCD is often unable to control his or her own obsessive thoughts, forcing the individual to carry out compulsive, repetitive behaviors to alleviate this severe anxiety. Statistics from the world global health organization rank OCD at ten among all diseases as a catalyst for disability.

Causes and Symptoms of OCD

The average age of onset for OCD is 19 years old. Symptoms include:

  • compulsions such as excessive cleaning, hand washing, counting, and double-checking things
  • obsessions such as fear of being hurt or germaphobic tendencies

Sexual obsessions are also common with this disorder.

OCD has a strong genetic element, and is 5 times more common in first degree relatives of someone struggling from the disorder. Several years back, this disorder was linked to a region of chromosome 9.

“Four in five people with OCD initially present to a physician other than a psychiatrist with other health conditions.” (Lamburg 2007)

Approximately 75% percent of patients who are diagnosed with OCD have a secondary disease. Often times an individual will report complaints early on to their PCP or a doctor in another field before addressing the issue with a psychiatrist. Children, in particular, do not receive the correct diagnosis the majority of the time.

Treatments for OCD

OCD that goes untreated can take over an individual’s life. Laughter has been said to decrease the symptoms and side effects brought on by obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions. Combination treatments of psychotherapy and medication prove to be the most effective route for combatting the symptoms of this disorder. Studies show that 60-100% of children who receive therapy for OCD get significantly and increasingly better. This being said, children with only medication as treatment did not improve as well as those with therapy tied in. For over 20 years, Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) therapy has also proven to be quite effective as treatment for this disorder. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and the journey starts when you reach out for help.