Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, more commonly known as OCD, is a mental condition that is linked with obsessive thoughts and behaviour.
Obsession, in this case, is highly unpleasant as the individual is compelled to repeat certain behaviour again and again (such as washing their hands to avoid catching germs). This is to avoid their obsession turning into reality. The condition is anxiety-related and the thoughts are unwanted and intrusive. Sufferers often understand that these thoughts are irrational, but by performing compulsive behaviour, they believe they will be cured.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a common mental condition that affects 3 out of 100 adults and 5 out of 100 children. The onset of the condition is, typically, in early adult life but it can occur in childhood. Men will often suffer from symptoms earlier than women.
The symptoms for this disorder can vary tremendously. A sufferer may engage in obsessive thinking and behaviour for a short time each day, whilst another might not be able to live a normal life because the condition is so disruptive.
Diagnosis is often made once the compulsions and obsessions are taking up excessive amounts of time, when they are causing stress to the sufferer and when they disrupt everyday lives.
There are several theories about the causes of Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Genetics — may be a factor, as evidence suggests that Obsessive-compulsive disorder can run in certain families, although nothing specific in terms of inherited genes has been proven to have a relationship with OCD. But a sufferer of the condition is much more likely to have another member of their family suffer from it (as much as four times more likely), than someone who does not have it.
Infection — such as those causing streptococcal bacteria may be related to the onset of OCD, particularly in children and young adults. The link may be between the brain reacting with antibodies to cause the condition.
The Brain — Sufferers of Obsessive-compulsive disorder seem to have an increase in blood flow and brain activity in the areas that control emotion.
Adverse Events — an event of violence or bereavement might be a trigger for Obsessive-compulsive disorder for those who have one of the above factors (like affected genes). The event itself can result in OCD that relates to it. Stress is another factor that can exacerbate the condition.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be categorized into 4 types
- Intrusive Thoughts
Checking is the ‘solution’ to the obsession that is all consuming. Its purpose is usually to prevent damage, such as checking:
- Oven knobs, appliances, lights, candles (to prevent fire)
- Taps (to prevent flood)
- Locks, windows, alarms (to prevent burglary)
- Letters (to prevent anything inappropriate being written)
- Purses or wallets (to prevent losing important cards or money)
- Symptoms of illnesses (to prevent contracting them)
- People (to prevent anything happening to them)
- Reading words (to prevent missing something vital)
Contamination- the compulsion is to wash/clean to prevent becoming contaminated, and ultimately dying, or contaminating another, such as:
- Shaking hands with people (to avoid their germs)
- The use of public toilets or telephones
- Touching door handles
- Waiting in the doctor’s surgery
- Eating out in a public place
- Touching staircase banisters
Hoarding valuables that are not needed and being unable to throw them away is another type of Obsessive-compulsive disorder. Previously it was thought that hoarding was more difficult to treat but after recent research, it is now believed that treatment for this part of the condition can be effe
Intrusive Thoughts are the fourth type of OCD. These are intrusive and often repugnant to the sufferer and can be of a sexual or violent nature. Examples might be:
- Relationship thoughts (worries over sexuality, faithfulness)
- Sexual thoughts (worries of becoming a paedophile, or being attracted to a member of one’s family)
- Magical thoughts (believing a thought can make an event happen such as a car crash, or treading on cracks will create a catastrophic event).
- Violent thoughts (murder, obsession with knives, poisoning, etc).
If Obsessive-compulsive disorder is not treated properly, its symptoms could grow worse. Without help, half of OCD sufferers still have the condition 30 or more years later.
Treatment is available for this disorder and, for some, it will result in a 100% cure. For others, treatment can enable them to take control of their lives, as the seriousness of their symptoms will be reduced. 80% of sufferers respond to treatment.
Psychotherapy has been proven to have a good success rate in treating OCD. Specifically, this involves cognitive behavioural therapy, which works through sufferers being exposed to and responding to their OCD. To do this few techniques are very popular and successful too. E.g. Systematic Desensitisation and Flooding. The treatment can work alongside medication, such as antidepressants.