Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.
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.
Tic Disorder may accompany OCD
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.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Treatments and Therapies
Treatment for OCD is 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 essential to consider these other disorders when making decisions about treatment.
Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs), which include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) used to help reduce OCD symptoms.
SRIs often require higher daily doses in the treatment of OCD than of depression and may take 8 to 12 weeks to start working, but some patients experience more rapid improvement.
If prescribed a medication, be sure you:
- Do not stop taking a medication without talking to your doctor first.
- Suddenly stopping a medication may lead to “rebound” or worsening of OCD symptoms.
- Other uncomfortable or potentially dangerous withdrawal effects are also possible.
Psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for adults and children with OCD. Research shows that certain types of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and other related therapies (e.g., habit reversal training) can be as effective as medication for many individuals. Research also shows that a type of CBT called
Exposure and Response Prevention (EX/RP) – spending time in the very situation that triggers compulsions (e.g. touching dirty objects) but then being prevented from undertaking the usual resulting compulsion (e.g. handwashing) – is effective in reducing compulsive behaviors in OCD, even in people who did not respond well to SRI medication.
Signs and Symptoms of OCD
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.
What are Obsessions?
Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety. Common symptoms include:
- Fear of germs or contamination
- Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, or harm
- Aggressive feelings towards others or self
- Having things symmetrical or in a perfect order
What are Compulsions?
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 or handwashing
- Ordering and arranging things in a particular, precise way
- Repeatedly checking on things, such as frequently checking to see if the door is locked or that the oven is off
- Compulsive counting
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 actions are excessive
- Spends at least 1 hour a day on these thoughts or behaviors
- Doesn’t get pleasure when performing the acts 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