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What Is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable and reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.

This condition is something so incredibly common but so incredibly overlooked or misread and that’s something that’s causing more problems. OCD is basically something that stems from anxiety.

People with OCD may have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions, or both. These symptoms can interfere with all aspects of life such as work, school, and personal relationships.

Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety. Common symptoms include:

  • Fear of germs or contamination
  • Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts
  • Aggressive thoughts towards others or self
  • Having things symmetrical or in a perfect order

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought. Common compulsions include:

  • Excessive cleaning and/or hand washing
  • Ordering and arranging things in a particular, precise way
  • Repeatedly checking on things, such as repeatedly checking to see if the door is locked or that the oven is off
  • Compulsive counting

But not all rituals or habits are compulsions. Everyone double checks things sometimes. But a person with OCD generally:

  • Can’t control his or her thoughts or behaviors, even when those thoughts or behaviors are recognized as excessive
  • Spends at least 1 hour a day on these thoughts or behaviors
  • Doesn’t get pleasure when performing the behaviors or rituals, but may feel brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts cause
  • Experiences significant problems in their daily life due to these thoughts or behaviors

Some individuals with OCD also have a tic disorder. Motor tics are sudden, brief, repetitive movements, such as eye blinking and other eye movements, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and head or shoulder jerking. Common vocal tics include repetitive throat-clearing, sniffing, or grunting sounds.

Symptoms may come and go, ease over time, or worsen. People with OCD may try to help themselves by avoiding situations that trigger their obsessions, or they may use alcohol or drugs to calm themselves.

Although most adults with OCD recognize that what they are doing doesn’t make sense, some adults and most children may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary. Parents or teachers typically recognize OCD symptoms in children.

OCD is something that affects a person from any age. Most people are diagnosed by about age 19, typically with an earlier age of onset but onset after age 35 does happen. Boys are more susceptible to it than girls.

The causes of OCD are unknown, but risk factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Brain Structure and Functioning
  • Environment

OCD is typically treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two. Although most patients with OCD respond to treatment, some patients continue to experience symptoms.

Sometimes people with OCD also have other mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphic disorder, a disorder in which someone mistakenly believes that a part of their body is abnormal. It is important to consider these other disorders when making decisions about treatment. All factors are considered, not just one. Often treatments have to be specified for each patient.

OCD is something that drastically affects the life of the affected, and along with professional treatment to get better, they also need support and understanding. When you notice something might be out of the normal with someone around you, help them and be there for them through the rough time they go through. The last thing need is for someone to ridicule and ostracize them.

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