What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
It is a mental disorder that is included in the anxiety disorders category. The person is trapped by a series of repetitive thoughts, images or impulses (obsessions) and repetitive behaviours (compulsions) that significantly affect their everyday life. The person often recognizes that their actions and thoughts are exaggerated or absurd, but they feel compelled to think or act this way because otherwise they will experience intense anxiety.
What Are the Symptoms?
Obsessions are repetitive and persistent thoughts, images or impulses that ‘invade’ the mind of the unwilling person, have unpleasant content and cause them terrible anxiety. The person recognizes these thoughts as their own, even if they disagree with them, and even though they try to ignore them, suppress them and neutralize them, they aren’t always successful.
Compulsions are repetitive and persistent behaviours or actions that require so much time that the person cannot continue their other activities. They may be obvious, like motor behaviors (e.g. cleanliness), or hidden, like mental actions (e.g. repetition of a phrase).
Characteristic of compulsions is that they require a lot of time, a sign that distinguishes them from normal repetitive behaviours, habits or controlling actions that we all have or do. Sometimes this ‘compulsiveness’ or perfectionism helps achieve goals and success in various areas of life, elevates a person’s self-esteem and demands. It is very different, however, from the symptomatology, the severity and the frequency of obsessive-compulsive disorder, a condition which needs psychological support.
When Is There A Problem?
Compulsive repetitive activities aren’t different to a great extent from some actions that we repeat daily in the same way. However, don’t jump to the conclusion that you have a problem because every morning before you leave home to go to work you check all the electrical appliances. The difference between those who wash their hands mechanically every time they use public transport and an OCD person that fears germs is that the latter (if they can even get into the bus) will disinfect their hands to an extent of getting their skin irritated.
Of course, there are also much milder forms, such as re-arranging drawers, constantly cleaning out one’s wardrobe, frequently sweeping the floor, etc.
What Is the Cause?
Everything originates from a person’s early childhood. A shock, a fright, or an insult they experienced play a major part in the development of such phenomena.
Biological factors, however, appear to play a part such as a problem in communication between the brain’s frontal lobe and deep brain structures. Obsessions, just like common anxieties, are created in a certain part of the brain, and while they should be ‘filtered ‘, this doesn’t happen. If serotonin, a major neurotransmitter in this brain circuit, is restored to normal levels, it will lead to a remission of the symptoms. Also, the brain activity of people with OCD differs from the rest, which seems to affect the processing of information and, consequently, their thinking, perception and behavior. Finally, heredity also affects OCD to some extent, as in families where parents suffer from OCD, there is a slightly higher chance of their children showing the same symptoms.
If you have noticed something similar to the above happening to you or to someone in your family, don’t hesitate to ask us for more information. We have worked with such cases many times and we know that there are solutions.
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