Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects approximately 3.3 million adults and one million children in the United States. This disorder usually begins in childhood and adolescence as obsessions that cause anxiety, resulting in repetitive behaviors and actions called compulsions.
OCD is diagnosed by a doctor’s assessment of the patient’s symptoms, which are the ritual behaviors and the time that the patient spends on them.
If an individual is experiencing symptoms, it is essential to consult a mental health professional for evaluation and treatment. Learn about these symptoms now.
What Are The Common Obsessions?
Obsession is an idea or thought that preoccupies the mind. In patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder, obsessions can come in many different forms that result in compulsive rituals.
Common obsessions found in patients who suffer from OCD include fear of dirt and germs, needing to have everything symmetrical and exact, as well as a need for perfection.
However, there are also obsessive thoughts attributed to OCD, and these may include thoughts or fear of accidentally harming oneself or others and forbidden or unwanted thoughts of sexual behavior.
These obsessions take up a great deal of the patient’s time, an hour or more every day, causing distress and interfering with the patient’s daily functions.
What Are Compulsions And Rituals?
Compulsions are the actions or rituals performed by patients with OCD as a result of their obsessions. A common compulsion is excessive washing or cleaning; this may include washing hands, brushing teeth, showering, or even cleaning compulsions and rituals when cleaning the bathroom or kitchen.
Other compulsions include ordering or arranging items in specific ways, checking doors and locks to make sure everything is safe, and counting, touching, tapping or rubbing objects in a certain way.
Compulsions also include mental rituals, which include saying prayers or trying to replace bad images or thoughts with good ones. A mental routine may be repeated over and over again until the patient feels okay and safe.
Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
The symptoms typically found in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder vary on a case to case basis, depending on the individual and the situation.
However, it can be noted the signs are the compulsions caused by the obsessive fears, feelings, and urges. Some symptoms include a change in behavior and feelings of anxiety, depression, shame or anger.
Sometimes patients may have physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, stomach aches, muscle tension, or a racing heart.
If a patient believes they may have OCD, they will need to be assessed by a mental health professional. The diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder is if the patient’s obsession consumes more than an hour per day of their time.
Causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Like other mental illnesses, the direct cause of OCD is not yet fully understood. However, studies have proven a combination of biological and environmental factors may contribute to the cause of the illness.
It is proven that obsessive-compulsive disorder is hereditary, and individuals with first degree relatives who have it are five times more likely to develop the disorder. However, inheritance is not the only cause of OCD.
Many environmental factors can trigger obsessive-compulsive disorder or worsen the symptoms of a patient who suffers from it. Some environmental factors may include abuse, illness, death of a loved one, and changes or problems in a relationship, work or school.
OCD in Children and Adolescents
It is estimated that one in every one hundred children suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which usually begins between the ages of seven and twelve years old.
However, it can be challenging to diagnose a child suffering from OCD as it is common for toddlers and young children to have some form of rituals and superstitions. It is essential to monitor and assess children to determine whether or not they have obsessive-compulsive disorder.
For children diagnosed with OCD, themes of harm and contamination are the most common obsessions. Therefore caution should be taken if they are obsessing over their loved ones getting hurt or ill, or if they are avoiding things that might make them dirty or contact germs and bacteria, as well as excessively washing their hands.
Treatments and Preventative Measures for OCD
There is no cure for OCD, but early diagnosis and treatment can limit the amount of time a patient obsesses over their rituals each day.
Relief can come through cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), sometimes paired with antidepressant medications. CBT is a combination of exposure and response therapy (ERP) and cognitive therapy (CT).
ERP begins with the therapist designing exposures and challenges to put children in situations to trigger obsessions. During the exposures, children must avoid performing their compulsive rituals for more extended periods.
CT is the second technique involved in cognitive behavioral therapy. It helps children with identifying and modifying thoughts that can cause anxiety and stress.
Stress management goes a long way with treating obsessive-compulsive disorder, as better managing stress levels can reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms.
Forty to sixty percent of OCD patients respond well to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Of those who do, forty to fifty percent see a reduction in their symptoms.
General Facts about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
The World Health Organization ranked obsessive-compulsive disorder as one of the top twenty most disabling diseases worldwide for individuals between fifteen and forty-four years old.
In the United States, OCD affects one in every one-hundred children, as well as one in every forty adults. Obsessive-compulsive disorder affects approximately 2.5 percent of individuals over their lifetime and is equally diagnosed in men and women. However, men are more likely to develop OCD during childhood.
The illness has an average onset of nineteen years old. However, doctors have reported symptoms in children under two years old.
Children with OCD may have comorbid disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders, and depression.