Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent obsessive or intrusive thoughts that are followed by compulsive behaviors that are continually repeated. People with OCD maintain these pattern of compulsive behaviors to reduce anxiety or fear, but the ritualized behavior can interfere with normal functioning, including social, work and family activities.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 2 million adult Americans suffer from OCD, with the average age of onset being 19 years old, although children and teens do suffer from symptoms as well. Both men and women are equally affected by the disorder, and may also have comorbid disorders including anxiety and mood disorders, hypochondria and body dysmorphia, tic disorders, as well as struggles with suicidal ideations.
People with OCD struggle with symptoms of obsessions -- recurrent, intrusive thoughts, images or urges -- or compulsions -- repetitive, decisive set of behaviors -- or both. When those with OCD struggle with obsessive thoughts -- typically irrational and many times can’t be reasoned with logic --, they are followed by compulsions in hope to get rid of the irrational thoughts. These compulsions are repetitive and ritualistic and may fill the day, interfering with normal activities.
While they are no definitive causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder, there are several factors that can trigger the illness. Those include:
The causes of OCD aren't fully understood, but studies have found that obsessive-compulsive disorder is common in people whose family members also struggle with the disorder.
Those who experienced sexual or physical abuse or other traumatic events are at a higher risk of the disorder.
Recent studies have shown that those who suffer from OCD appear to have changes in brain structure and miscommunication between neurotransmitters in the brain.
Additional research has shown that certain type of childhood infections can trigger the immediate onset of OCD.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a reference manual used by healthcare professionals as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders – the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder is listed below.
The criteria for obsessive-compulsive disorder includes the presence of obsessions, compulsions or both. Additionally, the obsessions and/or compulsions must be time-consuming (take more than 1 hour a day) and cause significant impairments in everyday functioning, including work or social struggles.
Recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges or images that are experienced as intrusive and cause anxiety or distress by the individual.
The individual attempts to ignore or dismiss the thoughts or urges by neutralizing them with either another thought or action (compulsion)
Repeated behaviors (hand washing, checking, moving items) or mental acts (praying, saying phrases, repeating words) that the individual feels compelled to perform.
The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at reducing anxiety or distress or preventing some dreaded event. However, the extremity of the behaviors or mental acts are not realistic to prevent or neutralize the situation.
Children may experience OCD differently than adults. While kids may perform repeated or ritualistic behaviors, they lack the developmental insight to recognize these as irrational or distorted thoughts, he or she just knows he gets a sense of relieve from these behaviors or rituals. Children may begin to believe they have “magical thinking” and that performing these rituals or behaviors, they are keeping themselves safe or stopping bad things from happen. Kids with OCD also seek reassurance from adults on safety and questions about the future.
A diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder requires an evaluation and diagnosis by a licensed clinician such as a psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in OCD. At Clarity Clinic, we specialize in OCD assessments and treatment for children, teens, and adults aimed at understanding the severity, length and frequency of the symptoms.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is treated on the severity of the disorder. A combination of medication and psychotherapy have been shown to be effective in helping reduce symptoms of OCD. While full recovery is limited, clinical treatment has been shown to reduce the severity of the symptoms allowing those struggling with obsessive-compulsive to make a considerable difference in their lives. At Clarity Clinic our experienced clinicians guide clients towards the proper treatments, including pharmacological and nonpharmacological interventions.
Our psychiatrists ensure a proper diagnosis and take care in specialized medication management for clients treating depressive disorders through pharmacological treatment.
Medication has been proven effective in the reduction of OCD symptoms. Typically SSRI’s such as fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetine and fluvoxamine are prescribed as part of the treatment plan.
Our psychotherapists work in conjunction with the treatment team to individually tailor the treatments and therapies, which may include exposure therapy -- a type of therapy that exposures patients gradually to the feared objects or situation in a safe environment to help overcome their distress. Other types of therapies used for obsessive-compulsive disorder may include cognitive therapies to changes distorted thoughts and behaviors.
For more information on obsessive-compulsive disorder, below is an additional resources to help learn more: