by Kimberly Allen R.N.
OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by two main parts, obsession and compulsions. Obsessions are unreasonable thoughts and/or fears that interrupt your regular thought process. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or routines that you feel you absolutely must do. OCD is one of the most frequently diagnosed mental health disorders. Some estimates are that more than 3 of every 100 adults as well as over 5 of every 100 children and teenagers suffer from OCD. It affects both males and females though males tend to develop symptoms earlier than females. There have also been studies that show OCD affects people regardless of culture or geography.
The exact cause of OCD is still unknown, however, there are several theories that are believed to affect the development of OCD. The three main theories are;
1. Biology, some reasearchers believe there is a genetic component and some believe OCD results from a change in our body’s natural chemistry and/or brain function.
2. Environment, researchers believe OCD can develop from behavior related habits that you have developed over an extended period of time.
3. Insufficient serotonin, one of our brains messengers is serotonin, some believe that low levels of serotonin contributes to the development of OCD. This is further emphasized as people with OCD that take serotonin promoting medications have fewer symptoms.
In addition to the theories scientists believe there are also certain risk factors that can precipitate developing OCD. Family history and or stressful life events can increase your risk of developing OCD.
Just as with other disorders OCD affects each person differently so the symptoms tend to vary slightly from person to person. However, most people with OCD fall into a cycle of thought and behavior. There are four main steps in the cycle;
1. Obsession, this is when you are overwhelmed with constant thoughts of fear or concern.
2. Anxiety, the overwhelming thoughts provoke intense anxiety.
3. Compulsion this is where you develop a pattern of behavior in order to reduce the intense anxiety, like checking to be sure all the windows and doors are locked before you leave……at least 3 times.
OCD can be difficult to treat and may not always result in a cure. Some people with OCD require treatment all their lives. There are two main treatments for OCD, psychotherapy and medications.
Living with OCD can be challenging to say the least. Many of the medications have side effects that are unwanted and make compliance difficult, however, there are newer medications with fewer side effects available that you can discuss with your Dr. Other things that can help are learning as much as you can about OCD and joining a support group. There are numerous support groups available, ask your Dr for one near you. it’s important to remember that living with OCD is an ongoing process. Stay motivated to be resposible for managing your disorder. Learning to live a healthier lifestyle by exercising regularly, learning relaxation techniques as well as stress management can significantly improve the quality of life for you.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.