Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

What is OCD?

>Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

It is a mental health disorder that traps people in endless cycles of repetitive thoughts and behaviours. They are plagued by recurring, unwanted, intrusive, distressing thoughts or fears or images or urges (OBSESSIONS) they cannot control. The anxiety produced by these thoughts leads to an urgent need to perform routines or rituals (COMPULSIONS) to neutralize or counteract or get rid of obsessions. This may temporarily relieve anxiety but a person must perform the ritual again when the obsessive thoughts return. This cycle is time-consuming and significantly interferes with normal activities.

Common Obsessions:

- Fear of contamination with dirt

- Unwanted sexual thoughts

- Religious obsessions (excessive concern about offending God)

- Fear of violent or horrific images in one's mind

Common Compulsions:

- Washing and cleaning hands excessively, bathing repeatedly

- Eating food in a specific order

- Checking locks or stoves periodically

- Repeating activities in multiples

- Need for order or symmetry

What causes OCD?

The exact cause of OCD is not fully understood but studies have shown that a combination of factors may be involved.

- Genetic causes - studies have shown that OCD runs in families and can be considered a "familial disorder"

- Biological causes - abnormality or imbalance in neurotransmitters serotonin,d opamine,or glutamine are thought to be involved.

- Environmental stressors may be a trigger for OCD

How is OCD treated?

The most effective approach to treating OCD is a combination of Medication and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). The goal of CBT is to teach people to confront their fears and reduce anxiety without performing the ritual behaviours (exposure and response prevention therapy). The therapy also focuses on reducing the catastrophic thinking that occurs in people with OCD.

OCD can be successfully treated in most cases with medication and therapy. With ongoing treatment, most people can achieve long-term relief from symptoms and return to near normal or normal functioning.

Article by Dr. Sujatha Velmurugan
Consultant Psychiatrist
Kauvery Hospital, Chennai

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