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Did you know that around 2.3% of the population suffers from OCD? While many have heard about OCD, many do not know what it is or why some people have it while others do not. So, what is OCD, and is there any kind of OCD treatment?

If you don’t have OCD but know someone who does, these questions likely have passed through your mind. Understanding OCD is not only important for connecting better with those who have it, but also to better understand the condition itself.

Without knowing the cause, symptoms, and treatment options, how can you hope to understand what someone with this condition is going through? Fortunately, if you’re interested in educating yourself more about OCD, you’ve clicked on the right article.

By reading more below, you will find the answers to many of your OCD questions. Without wasting any more time, let’s get started.

What Is OCD?

OCD’s full name is obsessive-compulsive disorder. This name encompasses the mental illness’s defining features perfectly: obsessions and compulsions.

In some cases, OCD can be mild and not interfere with one’s daily life. However, in other cases, the condition can be so severe that an individual with OCD may not be able to function in society.

OCD can be very stressful for those that have it. This stress, along with fear, causes them to repeat certain actions or to have intrusive thoughts. While these characteristics may sound mild, they can be detrimental to living a normal life.

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Those with OCD may try to stop having these intrusive thoughts and stop performing useless, repetitive actions, but this often leads to crippling anxiety, fear, and stress. This rebound of stress and fear forces them to return to their obsessive and compulsive actions. This is because these actions may give a brief but fleeting sense of relief from anxiety.

As you can see from this harmful cycle, it can be difficult for those with OCD to put their obsessions aside. More than that, those with OCD may feel embarrassed about their condition. This embarrassment may prevent them from seeking professional treatment and can be detrimental to the way they live their lives.

What causes this condition and at what point in one’s life does it begin? Can it impact anyone or only certain groups of people? We will explore these questions next.

What Are the Causes of OCD?

Researchers have not yet found a concrete answer as to what causes OCD. However, there may be genetic factors involved.

Some studies have shown that those suffering from OCD have different patterns of brain activity compared to those without OCD. What does this mean, exactly? To put it simply, parts of the OCD brain may have trouble communicating with other parts of the brain.

For example, some believe that the deep structures of the brain are not able to correctly interact with the front parts of the brain. The deep structures of the brain include the striatum and the thalamus. These structures are responsible for voluntary movement, consciousness, and sensation.

The structures of the front part of the brain, on the other hand, include the orbitofrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex. These structures are responsible for decision-making, cognition (thinking), control of impulses, and emotion. Obviously, then these very important structures are not able to communicate as they should, there can be consequences in behavior.

The problems in brain communication seem to originate from a neurotransmitter, a chemical in the brain, called serotonin. Other neurotransmitters such as glutamate and dopamine may play a part as well, but serotonin is the primary culprit. Serotonin is responsible for regulating mood and happiness.

If serotonin is not traveling properly throughout the brain or is not produced in the right quantities, behavioral problems and OCD symptoms can occur. When taking medication that regulates serotonin in the brain, those with OCD often report that their OCD symptoms are less prominent.

Is OCD Inherited?

Studies have seen that those with OCD tend to have close family members that also have the condition. This implies that there may be a gene, or multiple genes, responsible for the development of OCD in certain people. Unfortunately, any genes responsible for OCD have not yet been confirmed.

Thus far, only the hSERT gene (human serotonin transporter gene) may possibly cause OCD when mutated. However, research is lacking and it is not yet certain if hSERT is the true cause of OCD.

In addition to genetics, there seems to be an environmental side to OCD development as well. For example, stressful life events or illnesses may contribute to the development of OCD. Children affected by PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections) may develop OCD in response to an infection.

However, OCD that develops in childhood seems to have genetic causes. On the other hand, OCD that develops in adulthood may be caused by other, non-genetic factors.

OCD Signs and Symptoms

The OCD signs and symptoms are divided into obsessive and compulsive actions. OCD usually includes both obsessive and compulsive actions, however, some people only experience one or the other.

First, we will explore obsessions.

Obsessive Symptoms

Obsessive symptoms most often include intrusive thoughts and irrational fears. These thoughts cause stress and compel one with OCD to perform compulsive actions. Those with OCD may also not realize that their fears and intrusive thoughts are not normal.

These thoughts are distracting and can often interfere with other matters such as work, school, and social interactions. The obsessive fears are often germophobic. They can include fear of being touched, of dirt, and of being contaminated.

These fears may also include the environment. For example, fear of disorganization, fear of contaminated objects, or fear that you forgot to lock the door or turn off the faucet.

Obsessive thoughts can be violent or disturbing as well. This can include fear of hurting yourself or others or thoughts urging you to act inappropriately in a public setting.

These thoughts and fears are stressful and can lead one with OCD to perform compulsive acts in an attempt to get rid of these thoughts.

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Compulsive Symptoms

The compulsive symptoms of OCD are characterized by repetitive actions caused by fear or intrusive thoughts. These repetitive actions are not pleasurable, but they offer a brief break from the anxiety of the obsessive symptoms.

Some with OCD will create plans or rituals to control their intrusive thoughts. However, they do not often work and continue to perpetuate the obsessive-compulsive cycle of the condition.

A common sign of OCD is repeated hand-washing. OCD sufferers may repeat this action until their hands become injured. Another common compulsion is checking something repeatedly such as the door lock, the oven, or the sink.

Compulsive symptoms may compel those with OCD to repeatedly clean an object or part of their house. They may also take to saying a word, phrase, or prayer over and over again.

If these rituals are not followed, or if something in the environment is displaced, one suffering from OCD may become very stressed. People with OCD often find it difficult to maintain close relationships for this reason.

How Is OCD Diagnosed?

OCD seems to affect both men and women equally. As mentioned earlier, OCD symptoms can start at any age ranging from childhood to adulthood. Whenever symptoms first begin, they may be mild.

The severity of OCD may worsen over time, but some cases may worsen more than others. OCD can only be diagnosed by a trained psychiatric professional.

The psychiatric professional will look for the characteristic signs and symptoms of OCD. These are obsessions and compulsions that interfere with one’s daily actions and ability to live a normal life.

OCD Treatment

There is no cure for OCD, but there are OCD treatment centers and treatment options available. OCD treatment options include medication and therapy.

Medications include SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) to regulate the brain’s serotonin. Antidepressants and anxiolytics may also be used.

Antidepressants are usually the first mode of action. Those with OCD may need to try different medications to find the one that works for them. OCD sufferers often find that their symptoms improve with the right medication.

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Therapy often includes cognitive behavioral therapy. This involves changing the way one with OCD thinks. It also tackles the lessening of OCD fears such as dirt or germs.

Therapy requires effort but is often very effective. This is because one with OCD is able to recognize their obsessive and compulsive actions or fears. They are then able to recognize that these actions and fears are fruitless and can move past them.

Understanding OCD

Now that you know more about OCD treatment, causes, and signs, you can better understand OCD as a whole. If you or someone you know suffers from OCD, you can better determine when it’s time to get professional help.

To learn more, contact us here.

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