By Dr Vasanth. R, Consultant Psychiatrist
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common disorder, of long duration, wherein the patient has repeated irresistible thoughts which may co-occur with behaviours that are uncontrollable. OCD usually affects adults, adolescents, and children all over the world. Most people are diagnosed by about age 19 years, typically with an earlier age of onset in boys than in girls. However, onset after the age of 35 years can also occur.
What is an Obsession?
Obsessions are repeated thoughts, images or impulses that cause distress and cannot be controlled by the patient. Common examples being- Fear of contamination. Having things symmetrical. Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving religion and harm.
What is a Compulsion?
Compulsions are repetitive behaviours, that a patient with OCD does, to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsession. Common examples being- excessive cleaning. insisting on a particular order of arrangement. repeated checking. By now we all must be worrying whether we have the above-mentioned symptoms. Most of us double check our work, check again if we have locked the doors, or if we have turned off the stove.
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However, not all habits are compulsions. Here is the difference – a patient with OCD cannot control his/ her thoughts, though he recognises them as excessive. Thus, he experiences severe dysfunction in his daily living due to this. The patient derives no pleasure in doing these acts. People with OCD generally try to avoid situations that trigger their obsession or are a hindrance for their compulsion thereby causing social isolation.
The exact causes of OCD are unknown, and the risk factors being:
Genetics: Research shows that the risk of developing OCD is more if a first-degree relative has the disorder. Ongoing research continues to explore the connection between genetics and OCD.
Environment – People who have experienced abuse (physical or sexual) in childhood or other trauma are at an increased risk for developing OCD
Biological – Certain neurochemical imbalance can also trigger OCD symptoms Treatment Many modalities of treatment are available for the treatment
Pharmacological – Medications are available for the reducing the excessive thought and also to reduce the distress that it causes.
Psychological– Many therapies are available which done under the guidance of experts can reduce the anxiety that is triggered by the thoughts
Pic courtesy: pacific CBT