Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a potentially disabling anxiety disorder. It is a chronic illness, meaning that it is long-term, and is characterized by persistent, unwanted thoughts that lead to repeated actions. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, can disrupt all areas of your life, from personal to professional.
Obsessions are nagging, recurring thoughts and impulses that do not follow logical or normal thought processes. These interfere with the ability to think clearly and cause anxiety. Many people with OCD recognize that their thoughts are not rational, but are unable to get rid of them.
Compulsions are the actions that a person with OCD ritually completes to try and rid themselves of or control the unwanted thoughts. The rituals vary from person to person; some are always the same, others constantly change. No matter the action, the person feels they must do it over and over again to relieve their intense anxiety from the obsession. However, they do not obtain relief.
OCD should not be confused with obsessive-compulsive personality traits or perfectionism. If the thoughts and behaviors take more than one-hour a day, interfere with the ability to function normally, and cause anxiety, they are probably symptoms of OCD, and not simply personality traits. A person with OCD experiences anxiety and fear that if they do not follow through with their compulsive behaviors something terrible will happen. Even if they know this is not true, the obsessions still command their actions.
Causes of OCD
As with most mental illness, the exact causes of OCD have not been determined. Brain abnormalities, environmental factors, chemical imbalances, and genetic factors are all being studied.
OCD can be diagnosed by consulting with a health-care professional, preferably one with experience in mental health disorders. Too many people go without treatment because of misdiagnosis or fear of admitting their disorder. OCD is an illness and as such is not something to be ashamed of. It is important to give an accurate medical history, an account of the symptoms experienced, and to receive a physical examination. By seeking help, the symptoms of OCD can be treated.
OCD is best treated by combining medication with counseling. Antidepressants are commonly prescribed for OCD; they can take several weeks to begin working. If, after that time, there is no relief from the symptoms, dosages can be adjusted or another medication can be tried.
Counseling for OCD usually consists of exposing the person to their obsession or fear repeatedly and preventing them from completing their ritual action afterward. By forcing them to face their irrational fears, the belief is that they will learn that their anxieties are unfounded, thus reducing the obsessive thoughts and behaviors.
Also important is learning how to reduce and cope with stress. Involving family members and loved ones in the recovery process can help both the person suffering from OCD and those around him or her that are affected.
Because of flagrant misrepresentation of the disorder in movies and on television, many people have mistaken ideas about OCD. Most people suffering from the disorder fit in very well in society; those around them rarely have any idea that they have OCD. It is also one of the more common mental illnesses. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is simply a disease, and is not dangerous, nor is it something to be ashamed of. Through medical help and therapy, those who suffer from it can overcome or reduce the symptoms.