Skipping a family birthday party to clean your kitchen for the second time that day or being preoccupied with how canned food is stocked in the pantry could be signs of a mental health condition known as obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s a serious condition if ignored, but the symptoms are treatable.
What is OCD?
“Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviors an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.” Fortunately, most symptoms can be treated with medicine.
What are the Symptoms?
OCD is comprised of obsession and compulsion symptoms. But it’s also feasible to have symptoms of one or the other, not both. Some people don’t even realize their obsessions and compulsions are extreme or irrational, but they may consume large chunks of time and interfere with every aspect of daily life.
Obsessions May Include:
- You’re afraid of becoming contaminated or dirty
- You have doubts and problems controlling uncertainty
- You have an overwhelming desire to have things organized and symmetrical
- You may experience aggressive or gruesome thoughts about becoming unhinged and hurting yourself or someone else
- You have unwelcome thoughts, involving aggression, or adult or religious subjects
Compulsions May Include:
- You wash and scrub your hands your skin is visibly raw
- You’re compelled to check doors frequently to ensure they’re locked
- You think you smell gas, and check the furnace to make sure it’s working properly
- You count things in specific patterns
- You quietly recite a prayer, word, or saying
- Your canned goods have to be arranged so the labels face outwards
Just about all of us have obsessions and compulsive behaviors sometimes or in specific situations, but with OCD they consume greater than an hour daily and drive problems with school, work, or socially. If you have OCD, you normally get anxiety and other grief around your urge to accommodate your obsessions or compulsions.
Is OCD Common?
Nearly half the time, OCD becomes obvious during childhood or adolescence, with most other cases presenting in early adulthood. It’s uncommon for OCD to begin after you turn 40, but not unheard of. Studies indicate it starts earlier in males but is slightly more common in adult females. Here are other facts about the condition:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder affects 2.2 million adults, or one percent of the U.S. population.
- OCD happens nearly equally among men and women.
- If you have OCD, it probably started when you were 19 years old, with almost one quarter of cases happening by age 14. Studies indicate that one-third of impacted adults experienced symptoms as children.
What Causes OCD?
Like other mental health conditions, the exact cause of OCD is nebulous at best. But there are educated opinions about its complex origin story.
- Research indicates that OCD may be triggered by communication problems betwixt the front part of the brain and its deeper set structures. The role of damaged or weakened neurotransmitters (serotonin and glutamate) is a possible culprit.
- It could be caused by genetics. If you have a biological relative, like a parent or twin sibling, who has OCD, there’s a higher chance of you getting it. The risk is greater if the biological relative got OCD during their childhood or teenage years.
- It’s possible that the environment you grew up in contributed to the onset of OCD, but this theory needs more research. Another possibility is a childhood disease, particularly Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections.
Diagnosis & Treatment
There are normally three steps involved to diagnose OCD:
- Psychiatric assessment to discuss your thoughts, feelings, behavior, and symptom patterns as triggers for obsessions or compulsions and whether they inhibit your quality of life. Your healthcare provider may ask your permission to talk to family or friends.
- Reviewing the diagnostic criteria for OCD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), printed by the American Psychiatric Association.
- Physical examination where a doctor will try to rule out other problems which might trigger your symptoms and uncover any related complications.
Treatment could involve psychotherapy or medicine like ketamine.
OCD affects millions of people. It’s more than just being identified with odd behavior or personality quirks. It’s a serious condition that can negatively impact all facets of your life if not cared for properly. To talk about treatment options that may help you find relief, reach out to us today.