Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is classified as a type of anxiety disorder. People with OCD are driven by unreasonable thoughts and unwarranted fears, referred to as “obsessions”, to perform repetitive behaviors, referred to as “compulsions”. 

Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, ideas, and impulses that you have again and again. They won’t go away and they get in the way of normal thoughts and cause anxiety or fear. The thoughts may be sexual or violent, or they may cause worry about illness or infection. Examples include: a driving need to do things perfectly or correctly or a fear of getting dirty or infected.

Compulsions are behaviors that a person repeats to try to control the obsessions. Examples include: washing, or checking that something has been done, counting, often while doing another compulsive action, such as hand washing, repeating things or always moving items to keep them in perfect order, hoarding or constant praying. 

The obsessions or compulsions usually take up a lot of time- more that 1 hour a day. They greatly interfere with your normal routine at work or school, and they affect social activities and relationships. 

People suffering from OCD might understand their obsessions are unreasonable, but trying to stop or ignore them causes compounding anxiety and stress.

What causes OCD?

Although what causes obsessive-compulsive disorder is not fully known, three theories have been developed. OCD may have a biological basis brought about by neurochemical imbalances. 

Specific genes responsible for OCD have not been identified. The second theory is that OCD may be caused by environmental factors and habits a person has been learning over time. The third theory blames OCD on insufficient serotonin levels. 

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter; it is one of the brain’s chemical messengers. Medications that work by improving serotonin action do reduce obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms, which lends much credence to this theory.

Is there a cure for OCD?

There is no cure for OCD, but there are methods of treatment that provide relief from the symptoms to the extent that most patients can lead normal lives. Therapies for obsessive-compulsive disorder typically consist of medications, psychotherapy or both. 

OCD responds well to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy coupled with prescribed medication, usually antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, alleviates the symptoms for most people who suffer from OCD. 

The most effective medications prescribed for obsessive-compulsive disorder are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are antidepressants. A few of these medications include:

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)

Atypical antipsychotics have also proven to be helpful in low doses. Among those antipsychotics are:

  • Risperidone (Risperdal)
  • Quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • Ziprasidone (Geodon)
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