Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is a condition characterized by a pattern of seemingly irrational thoughts, obsessions, and fears which lead to repetitive, compulsive behaviors. The obsessions and compulsions can vary quite a bit from person to person, with some forms of OCD being more common than others.
Avoiding these compulsions can increase stress and ultimately lead to more compulsive behavior as a means of reducing stress. OCD typically revolves around certain themes, such as a need to be clean or collecting excess material goods. Many who live with OCD will feel anxiety and shame about their issue, which can increase compulsions and reinforce the vicious cycle.
The signs and symptoms of OCD greatly depend on the specific manifestation of the condition. In fact, while OCD usually includes the presence of both obsessions and compulsions, it’s entirely possible to have OCD and only experience one or the other. Those with OCD may not even realize their behavior is unusual, dangerous, or interfering with their daily lives. Outside of these general themes, the specific manifestation of OCD will be varied.
The obsession related symptoms of OCD typically involve some type of persistent behavior or thoughts. These thoughts or actions can be a significant source of anxiety. For some, it will be the obsessions themselves, while for others, the anxiety will result from complications of the behavior. Some of the most common themes of obsessions include fear of dirt, need for order, or intrusive violent or sexual thoughts.
The compulsive symptoms of OCD include repetitive actions you feel must be accomplished. For many, these actions are a way to help control their world and reduce anxiety related to their obsessions. Others exhibit compulsive behavior in a bid to control various events, often in a seemingly illogical manner. One thing that’s true for most compulsions is that they only offer temporary relief to those suffering and in many cases can ultimately make things worse.
Those with OCD will create strict rituals, many of which tend to revolve around the themes of counting, cleaning, checking, or orderliness. These compulsions have been known to result in hand-washing to the point of raw skin, counting things a certain amount of times and in a specific order, or ensuring all the items in storage are lined up perfectly.
While the symptoms tend to vary quite a bit from person to person, one relatively consistent thing is that OCD is a lifelong struggle. Symptoms may remain mild for years, but get worse during times of high stress. This makes staying aware of your triggers and symptoms necessary throughout your life.
While the causes of OCD aren’t currently well understood, researchers have a few theories. As with most conditions, it’s most likely the cause of OCD isn’t one particular thing, but rather a combination of factors. For instance, most researchers believe genetics plays a crucial role in OCD, but no gene has been identified yet. The environment is another likely factor, with some early research even suggesting certain infections could trigger OCD.
One of the primary risk factors of OCD is a family history of the condition, as those with a parent or other close relative with OCD is much more likely to develop the condition. The other most common risk factors of OCD are traumatic life events, although researchers don’t fully understand why this triggers the condition. OCD has also been associated with other issues, including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
OCD is a relatively uncommon anxiety disorder, although documented cases have been on the rise as awareness and detection becomes more prevalent. Currently, around 2.2 million people around the US are impacted by OCD, accounting for 1% of the population.
OCD is a significant issue that requires the right treatment plan. If you’re worried you or a loved one may be dealing with OCD, don’t hesitate to contact a trusted doctor. Only they can provide a full diagnosis and get you on the right path forward. Proper treatment and therapy can significantly reduce complications and increase the quality of life.