Obsessivecompulsive disorder (OCD) is a mild mental illness affecting 2-3million adults in the US. The International OCD Foundation (2015)defines OCD as a “disorder of the brain and behavior” that“involves both obsessions and compulsions that take a lot of timeand get in the way of important activities the person values.” Thedisorder affects both adults and children. However, given itsportrayal in the media such as in the TV series Monk,many people tend to misunderstand the disorder and label most simpleobsessions as OCD. However, this is not the case. This paper seeksto promote understanding of OCD by discussing in brief its cause andeffects, symptoms and treatments.
Thecauses of OCD are unknown. However, researchers have shown that thedisorder results from a combination of genetic predispositions andenvironmental factors (Hyman & Pedrcik, 2010). The geneticelements are associated with variations in the structure of the brainand chemical imbalances in the brain too. Serotonin, a chemicalcreated by the human body and mainly found in the gastrointestinaltract, blood platelets, and the central nervous system, which worksas a neurotransmitter is mainly linked with OCD. Environmentalfactors linked to the disorder include physical or psychologicaltrauma, stress, illness, abuse and major life transitions such asdivorce, heartbreaks and even development stages such as adolescenceand menopause. In most cases, environmental factors alone cannotcause OCD but it is the combination with the genetic elements thatactivates the disorder. Once activated, the disorder causesindividuals to experience persistent anxiety, thoughts and fears thatare recognizable through various symptoms.
Thesymptoms of the fears, thoughts and anxiety are unwanted repetitivebehavior. These repetitive behaviors also called compulsions aregeared towards neutralizing the obsessions. When these compulsionsare suppressed for long, they can increase anxiety further making itdemanding for the individual and harder to treat. The fears, thoughtsand anxiety usually take one or several themes. For instance, one maybe obsessed about getting an infection hence excessive washing ofhands or over use of disinfectants. Other common obsessions take thethemes of religion, control, sex, and death. The symptoms can be asource of depression for some people thereby complicating diagnosisand treatment. For people who fear contamination, common symptomsinclude repeatedly washing hands, avoiding making contact with otherpeople or public utilities among others (Hyman & Pedrcik, 2010).
OCDis treated through three main approaches, psychotherapy, medicationand behavioral therapies. The choice of treatment depends on theseverity of the disorder and the symptoms exhibited. Behavioraltreatments are largely based on the cognitive behavior therapyapproach. One these approaches rely on exposure and responseprevention. This encourages people to face their fears by triggeringthe obsessive thoughts but preventing one to act on them. Themedication approach seeks to restore chemical balance in the bodymainly by controlling the production of serotonin and other hormonesthat control fear and anxiety. Common medications include citalopram,clomipramine, escitalopram, fluoxetine and fluvoxamine (Acton, 2013).However, some of these medications have unpleasant side effects thatinclude headaches, blurredvision and dizziness. The psychotherapyapproach seeks to address the environmental elements that trigger OCDsuch as stress and depression.
Fromthe discussion above, it is clear that what many people may wronglyidentity simple obsessions as OCD. The media has for instancepopularized the idea of people suffering as OCD as just peoplepursuing perfection. It is therefore important for one to identifythe disorder properly and seek medical diagnosis and treatment.
Acton,Q (2013). Obsessive-CompulsiveDisorders: New Insights for the Healthcare
Professional:2013 Edition:New York: ScholarlyBrief
Hyman,B. & Pedrcik, C. (2010). The OCD workbook:your guide to breaking free from
obsessive-compulsivedisorder.New York: New Harbinger
IOCDF(2015). OCD. Retrieved from http://iocdf.org/about-ocd/