Obsessive compulsive disorder, more commonly referred to as OCD, is a psychiatric condition defined by the patient’s desire to perform routines repeatedly. These routines themselves derive from repeating thoughts, which often control the sufferer and impair their quality of life. People with OCD may be treated with medication or behavioural therapies.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Drugs
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Symptoms
OCD is characterised by the presence of what are known as obsessions. These obsessions can take any number of forms, but typically present themselves as repeated routines or tasks – such as washing hands a given number of times even if the hands are reasonably clean. Some routines are quite harmful, such as picking skin excessively, which can result in infection and scarring. Such compulsions go beyond the control of the patient, which can lead to profound anxiety and depression.
The following list of symptoms is by no means intended to be exhaustive, but it highlights many of the common symptoms experienced by patients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:
- Obsessive Thoughts
- Excessive Fear
- Compulsive Behaviours
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Causes
Currently, the direct cause of OCD is unknown. However, there are psychological theories as to why an individual might be predisposed to contracting the mental illness. Some of the potential causes of OCD include:
- Child abuse
- Traumatic childhood
- Genetic susceptibility
- Exposure to certain infections
For example, it is thought that an individual’s childhood may play a role -particularly if the child experienced a traumatic event or suffered from child abuse. It is also thought that genetics might play a role, as identical twins are more likely to suffer the condition when compared with non-identical twins. Children and adolescents who experienced certain types of infection may also cause rapid onset of OCD.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Diagnosis
Patients are diagnosed with OCD if they fulfil the criteria as set down in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). This diagnostic criteria includes, but is not limited to:
- Persistent thoughts or impulses
- Compulsion in repeated action
- Severe anxiety on habit avoidance
It’s worth emphasising that many individuals perform repeated activities, but what defines OCD is the need for the patient to complete the action. In other words, patients with OCD must complete the action or else suffer debilitating anxiety. Either a psychiatrist or psychologist is qualified to diagnose OCD depending on the symptoms experienced by the patient.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Treatment
Effective therapies exist for the treatment of OCD, the most important of which include:
- Behavioural Therapies
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
- Electroconvulsive Therapy
The mainstay of psychological therapy is to gradually expose the patient to the fear they have. OCD is characterised by a fear of not performing a given task, and by breaking down this fear, the patient slowly becomes accustomed to breaking the habit. This takes time, but all behavioural therapies are only intended to work over the long-term.
Medication has also proven effective. Drugs such as fluvoxamine, paroxetine and sertraline dampen the patient’s reaction enough to expose them to the aforementioned fear. In severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy may be performed and has shown to be effective in some cases. The effectiveness of surgery in extreme cases is currently being studied.