Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD)
The illness known as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterised by recurrent undesirable thoughts and feelings (obsessions) that drive the sufferer to engage in repetitive behaviours (compulsions). Repeated behaviours can seriously hinder everyday duties and social interactions.
Though symptoms of OCD might fluctuate over time, the disorder is often lifelong (chronic). At some point, everyone has compulsions and obsessions. OCD may consume a person’s day for hours at a time. It interferes with daily living and activities. OCD sufferers don’t like engaging in obsessive behaviours, and their obsessions are undesired.
It is crucial to acknowledge that obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a mental health issue. Seeking assistance as soon as symptoms arise will help lessen the disturbances to your life, as is the case with any mental health issues. You may minimise or even completely eradicate the influence of your symptoms on your daily life with the support of a variety of coping mechanisms and professional therapy.
Table of Contents
What Are the Symptoms of Obsessive-compulsive Disorder?
OCD presents two main symptoms: obsessions and compulsions. While some experience both, others have only one.
These symptoms are persistent, requiring at least an hour daily and significantly impacting daily life. Obsessions or compulsions can hinder focus at school or work, even preventing attendance. Despite realising their irrationality, these thoughts and behaviours often feel uncontrollable, illustrating the challenging nature of living with OCD.
Though obsessive thoughts can include a wide range of topics, the following are some prevalent themes:
- intrusive images, words, or sounds
- concerns for your loved ones’ or your health and safety
- questioning your sexual desires or orientation
- worries about throwing things away
- explicit sexual or violent thoughts
- a desire for your possessions to be in line, symmetrical, or organised
- fears of saying something offensive or obscene
- fears of harming yourself or someone else
- worries about germs, dirt, or illness
Unwanted, intrusive thoughts persist despite efforts to ignore or suppress them, fostering a stronger conviction they might come true.
Examples of compulsive behaviours in OCD include:
- reviewing your activities in your head to make sure you haven’t hurt anyone else
- hiding objects that you may use to hurt yourself or others
- accumulating certain items or purchasing multiples of the same thing
- seeking reassurance from others
- touching something a set number of times
- counting or repeating specific phrases
- arranging or positioning things in a particular manner
- washing your hands, objects, or body
Compulsions are responses to obsessions. When obsessions arise, you may feel compelled to act to relieve anxiety or prevent the obsessive thought from coming true. Actions may need repeating until perfect.
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What Are the Types of Obsessive-compulsive Disorder?
While there isn’t a single classification for the many varieties of OCD, experts usually separate the symptoms into several subtypes:
- collecting or hoarding
- intrusive sexual, violent, or other taboo thoughts
- symmetry, perfectionism, and ordering
- fear of harm and checking
- contamination and cleaning
Your symptoms might align with one subtype or fall into multiple categories, given the complexity.
Nor are these the only hypothesised subtypes of OCD. Other unrecognised OCD “types” consist of:
- Pure O (obsession) is characterised by intrusive, violent, or sexual thoughts and obsessions without any discernible compulsions. Compulsions may still exist in Pure O; they may merely manifest as rituals in the mind as opposed to acts.
- Relationship OCD is characterised by persistent uncertainties, queries, and bothersome thoughts regarding your relationship.
- Compulsive behaviours and obsessions centred on religion are a feature of scrupulosity, often known as Religious OCD. You may feel obligated to touch many items, count to a specific number, or pray a certain number of times to negate a notion that you deem blasphemous.
What Are the Causes of Obsessive-compulsive Disorder?
While the exact cause of OCD remains unknown, a family history of the condition may play a major role in the disorder’s development. If you have a close family who has OCD, your chances of getting it are higher.
If you’re genetically more likely to develop OCD, other factors can also increase your chances of developing the condition, such as:
- Traumatic brain injury – Symptoms of OCD may appear for the first time following a head injury.
- Childhood acute neuropsychiatric symptoms (CANS) – For some children, OCD begins suddenly after an infection. After a streptococcal infection, this syndrome is known as PANDAS, which stands for paediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcus. However, symptoms from other illnesses or infections may also exist.
- Abuse in childhood – Children who experience abuse or other traumatic childhood experiences, like bullying or severe neglect, have a higher chance of developing the condition.
- Personality – Perfectionism, high emotions of duty, and inability to handle ambiguity are some personality qualities that may contribute to OCD. Whether they are more adaptable learning responses that can be altered or if they are genuinely fixed features is up for discussion.
- Stress or trauma – Excessive stress at work, school, home, or in relationships can exacerbate pre-existing symptoms of OCD or increase the likelihood that you will acquire it.
OCD often occurs with other mental health conditions, including eating disorders, social anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, Tourette syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Even with a family history and risk factors, developing OCD isn’t guaranteed. Individuals with no known risks may still have OCD.
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How is Obsessive-compulsive Disorder Diagnosed?
An OCD test does not exist. A medical professional asks you about your symptoms and past medical and mental health issues before making the diagnosis. They employ a set of standards, which consist of:
- It is impossible to attribute the symptoms to any other mental health condition, including eating disorders, body image problems, or generalised anxiety disorder.
- Substances, alcohol, drugs, or any other medical issue are not the source of the symptoms.
- The compulsive behaviours lead to distress or interfere with social interactions, professional obligations, or other aspects of your life.
- The compulsions or obsessions consume a significant amount of time—more than an hour per day.
- Having obsessions, compulsions or both.
What is the Treatment for Obsessive-compulsive Disorder?
A wise place to start when looking for beneficial treatment options is by getting in touch with a therapist who has expertise with OCD.
OCD patients typically receive both medication and psychotherapy as part of their treatment.
A variety of psychiatric drugs can lessen the symptoms of OCD.
A prescribing professional, such as a psychiatrist, may prescribe:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- A tricyclic antidepressant, though this medication generally won’t be prescribed as a first-line treatment
- antipsychotics which can enhance the effects of SSRIs
- An antagonist of the NMDA receptor, which can also strengthen the effects of SSRIs
If you don’t feel better right away, don’t stop taking your SSRIs as prescribed; it may take 8 to 12 weeks for them to start working.
Typically, mental health providers advise therapy as a component of a multimodal treatment plan.
Medication can often help relieve symptoms, but by working with a therapist, you can also learn tools to manage unwanted thoughts and change unhelpful patterns of behaviour and strategies to improve relaxation and cope with emotional distress.
Therapy approaches recommended for OCD include:
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy – This involves learning mindfulness skills to cope with distress triggered by obsessive thoughts.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – CBT can help you learn to identify and reframe patterns of unwanted or negative thoughts and behaviours.
- Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) – This kind of CBT exposes patients gradually to dreaded scenarios or worries that underlie obsessions or compulsive behaviours. ERP aims to teach people how to control their obsessions without resorting to obsessive behaviours.
Additionally, there is little evidence in favour of brain stimulation for OCD symptoms.
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) – TMS uses magnetic pulses on your brain through a coil. It’s non-invasive, complementing medication and therapy for OCD.
- Deep Brain Stimulation – Electroconvulsive therapy directs electrical pulses to OCD-associated brain areas. It is reserved for severe, treatment-resistant cases due to its surgical nature.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition which can wax and wane for a long time. When OCD sufferers obtain the right care, their quality of life frequently improves along with their ability to function in social, academic, and/or professional settings. It is always advisable to seek medical help from an experienced psychiatrist. Timely care and help can ensure an appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your condition.
At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult a psychiatrist, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment at the CK Birla Hospital.
What Distinguishes Normal Behaviour From Obsessive-compulsive Disorder?
Normal behaviour involves occasional, manageable thoughts. In obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), intrusive thoughts persist, leading to compulsive behaviours performed to reduce anxiety, affecting daily life significantly.
What Role Does Therapy Play in Ocd Treatment?
Therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP) are crucial for OCD treatment. It helps individuals manage obsessions and compulsions, fostering healthier thought patterns and behaviours.
Are There Support Groups for Individuals With Ocd?
Yes, support groups for individuals with OCD provide a valuable community where people can share experiences, coping strategies, and emotional support, fostering a sense of understanding and connection.
Can Children Develop OCD?
Yes, children can develop OCD. The onset often occurs between late childhood and early adulthood, and early intervention through therapy and support is crucial for effective management and improved outcomes.
Is There a Cure for Ocd, or is It a Lifelong Condition?
OCD is typically a chronic condition, but it can be effectively managed with a combination of therapy, medication, and support. While there is no cure, many individuals experience significant improvement with treatment.
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