How Bad Can Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Be And How Can Anyone Cope With It?
If you're familiar with Tony Shalhoub’s detective character “Adrian Monk” of the TV series Monk, Jim Parson’s “Sheldon Cooper” of the sitcom The Big bang Theory and Jack Nicholson’s “Melvin Udall”in the movie As Good As It Gets, these characters have one thing in common, they all have obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD. 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is well documented in the United States and in Australia, and there are a large number of people suffering from this disorder. In the United States, The National Institute of Mental Health estimated that there is more than 2% of the United States population or nearly 1 out of 40 persons will be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder at some point of their lives. The institute stated that OCD is 2 to 3 times more common than bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. In Australia, it is estimated that 450,000 are affected or 1 in every 100 people will be affected or develop OCD.

What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by the presence of unwanted and recurring thoughts, impulses, images, repetitive mental and behavioral materials and in some cases, obsessions. People suffering from OCD usually know or they are aware that their symptoms and manifestations are excessive and irrational, although the obsessions are uncontrollable and the compulsions are very hard to resist. Most people at any one time experience obsessive thoughts or compulsive behavior. This can occur for more than an hour everyday which can interfere with their normal life. 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is sometimes characterized as a disease of doubt because people suffering from this disorder experience a so called pathological doubt because these people cannot separate what is possible, what is unlikely to happen or what is probable. OCD can affect children, adolescents and adults. It is estimated that about 1/3 up to ½ of all adults with OCD report a childhood manifestation during childhood and continued throughout the individual’s life. OCD has three main parts:
  • The thoughts that make people anxious (obsession)
  • The anxiety the person feel
  • The things that will reduce a person’s anxiety (compulsion)

What Are The Common Symptoms Of OCD?
The symptoms of the disorder will vary with each individual. Common obsessions can include fear of making mistakes, fear of germ contamination, fear of causing harm to others, the need for order, exactness and symmetry, excessive doubts and the need for constant assurance and fear of being embarrassed. It also has the same symptoms with body dysmorphia or the imagined ugliness where one can have those repetitive actions, intrusive thoughts and fixation on certain things.

Common compulsion symptoms include repeated bathing, washing hands or showering, refusing to touch or hold doorknobs or shake hands, repeatedly checking things, constant counting while doing a routine tasks, constantly arranging things in a specific manner, eating foods in a specific order, a need to perform tasks in a certain number of times, hoarding or collecting items with no value.

What Are The Possible Causes Of OCD?
Although the exact cause of OCD is not yet discovered or fully understood, many studies have shown that combinations of environmental and biological factors may be involved.

Biological factors. The human brain is a complex organ, it contains billions of nerve cells, also known as neurons that work and communicate together to function normally. Each neuron communicates through electrical signals and a special chemical called neurotransmitters, helps move these electrical signals from one neuron to another neuron. Studies have found a link between decreased levels of serotonin and the development of OCD. It was also found that serotonin imbalance can be inherited between parents and children. It was also found that specific areas of the brain that are affected by the serotonin imbalance can lead to OCD. It involves the pathways of the brain area that links with judging, planning and the area of the brain that is used to filter messages that is responsible for body movements. The studies also found a link between a specific type of infection that is caused by the streptococcus bacteria and obsessive-compulsive disorder. If this bacteria are not treated, it can lead to the development of OCD and other mental disorders in children.

Environmental factors. Certain environmental factors can cause OCD to manifest. These factors can include lifestyle changes, as, illnesses and diseases, death of a loved one, relationship issues and concerns, school and work related concerns.

The Types Of OCD
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is diagnosed when the obsessions and compulsions consumes or takes an excessive amount of time, causes a significant amount of anguish and stress and interferes with the daily and normal functions at school, home or at work. It can also interfere with many relationships with family members, friends and other social activities.
Types of obsessive-compulsive disorder include:
  1. Checking. This is the compulsion to need to check or the obsessive fear to prevent damage, leaks, fires or harm. The obsessive checking is often carried out multiple times or in some cases for hours. This can result in a person to be late to work, school or appointments. It can have a serious impact on a person’s ability to hold relationships and jobs. Constantly checking can also damage objects. Checking includes re-reading words or line in a book, constantly texting or calling a loved one, reassurance, route after driving, card arrears or re-reading postal letters and greeting cards before sealing and mailing it.
  2. Contamination. This is the need to clean and wash. It is the obsessive fear that something is contaminated that it may cause illness or death to a loved or to oneself. Sometimes its call germaphobia. The cleaning and washing are often done multiple times that are accompanied by rituals of repetitive hand and body washing until the individual feels clean. An individual may avoid places or establishments if they tend to experience contamination fears. This can include excessive brushing of teeth, excessive cleaning of the kitchen and the bathroom, visiting hospitals, going to public places, being in a crowd or eating in a restaurant.
  3. Hoarding. This is another type of obsession which is considered to be part of obsessive compulsive disorder. This is the inability to throw out or discard useless, old and worn out possessions. If you have seen the reality show “Hoarders” then you have an idea what is it about.
  4. Ruminations. This is described as all obsessional intrusive thoughts. Out in the context of OCD, rumination is prolonged thinking about a question or a theme that is unproductive or undirected. It is not objectionable and are indulged than resisted. Most ruminations focus on philosophical, religious and metaphysical topics. People having ruminations never leads to a particular solution or a satisfactory conclusion advantage the person seems to be deeply preoccupied and detached.
  5. Intrusive thoughts. In the context of OCD, this is a condition where a person is bombarded with obsessional thoughts that are repetitive, horrific, disturbing and repugnant in nature. Example,thoughts of causing sexual or violent harm to loved ones or to anybody. However, people with OCD are the least likely to actually act on the thoughts because these people find it repugnant and will go to great lengths to prevent or avoid it from happening.
  6. Orderliness and symmetry. This is one of the best known manifestation of OCD. This is the need to have everything lined up symmetrically. Their person has the urged to arrange anything to be “just right”. Individuals will spend a lot of time trying to get everything in symmetry or straight which can cause them to be late for appointments, work or school.
Is OCD Treatable?
Acknowledging that you have OCD is the first step in treating the symptom. In most cases, an obsessive
- compulsive disorder can be successfully treated with proper medication, cognitive therapy or both. With present day treatments, sufferers can have a long term relief from the symptoms and go back to a normal life. It is essential to seek treatment for OCD because it will go away by itself. Present day treatments include:
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. The goal of this treatment is to teach sufferers to confront their fears and reduce their anxiety without doing the ritual behaviors. The therapy also focuses on reducing the exaggerated of the catastrophic thinking that often occurs with OCD sufferers.
  • Medication therapy. This includes certain forms of antidepressants like a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft. 

Severe cases of OCD and for those people who do not respond to behavioral and medical therapy, electro convulsive therapy (ECT) or psychotherapy mat be performed in treating the disorder. Electrodes are attached to the patient's head and a series of electric shocks are focused on the brain which induce controlled seizures. These seizures release neurotransmitters in the brain that helps alleviate the symptoms. 

Obsessive compulsive disorder is unpreventable, but early detection and diagnosis can help reduce a person’s OCD behavior.

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