Since the turn of the 20th century, the obsessive-compulsive disorder has been viewed as an independent syndrome. It is considered as a form of anxiety disorder.
How Common Is OCD Or Is It A Rare Disease?
More people suffer from OCD than bipolar depression. It is quite a common problem. Current estimates suggest that approximately one in every 50 adults living in the United States has OCD. Millions of people globally are affected by OCD, compulsions, and behaviors that can result from compulsive thoughts. It affects more than 2% of the population (about 2.3% to be precise) and 1 in 100 children suffer from the disease.(1)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Don’t Neglect It
Sometimes behavioral problems can be temporary and resolve on their own. However, there are others more resistant, which require psychotherapy such as behavioral therapy, to be eradicated.
Such troubles should not be allowed to settle, because they seriously handicap not only your private life but also your social relationships.(2)
Symptoms And Complications
OCD develops slowly. It begins with a few obsessions which gradually become rituals or habits. People with OCD usually have a great concern for cleanliness and fear of contamination. Their repetitive behaviors, such as washing their hands, taking daily showers, cleaning, begin slowly but become difficult to control as they become more and more frequent, meticulous and prolonged occupations.(3)
Other common compulsions include:
A Compulsive Need For Constancy: to follow the same path every day to get to work, or to cross the street in exactly the same place every day
Counting: brushing your hair according to an established number of brush strokes, or touching the table a certain number of times before going around it
Fear Of Being Attacked: the doors are checked several times before going out or before going to bed
Fear Of Fire: electrical devices are constantly checked to make sure they are turned off
Fear Of Losing Control or becoming angry, intrusive sexual thoughts
The Need For Perfection: enormous time is devoted to perfecting the organization and content of the cabinets
Some rituals can have a place in everyday life, but the problems begin when they interfere with the quality of life. People with OCD are unable to skip a step in their ritual behaviors; otherwise, compulsive thoughts will haunt them until the ritual is performed exactly as they think it should be. They then feel relieved, but the relief is short-lived because of the obligation to start all over again very quickly.(4)
Diagnosis Of OCD
Generally, the disorder is diagnosed when repetitive thoughts or behaviors interfere with daily activities, take a long time, and cause psychological distress. It is sometimes difficult to make a diagnosis because the person affected performs his habits or compulsive gestures in secret. It also happens that he or she is aware that something is wrong, but dares not ask for help.
If an OCD is suspected, the doctor may start with a physical exam, and then inquire about the medical history to try to arrive at a diagnosis.(4)
Treatment And Prevention Of OCD
OCD can be treated with psychological or medication measures, or a combination of the two.
The main psychological intervention is cognitive-behavioral therapy – exposure, or prevention of responses – whose success rate can be high in motivated people, with few cases of relapse. Treatment consists of deliberately exposing the person to his obsessions to force him to confront the behaviors that they trigger. But the therapist prevents the person from performing his ritual (prevention of responses).
Therapy should be repeated frequently, over a period of weeks, or even months, until you are able to repel the obsessive thoughts that drive the behavior. Behavioral therapy will only be effective if you are highly motivated and truly want to manage your situation.
Drug therapy can also be effective for OCD. Antidepressants that affect the path of serotonin in the brain are very helpful in controlling the symptoms of OCD. These drugs include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
The effect of these medications can take 4 to 6 weeks to be felt, so be patient and continue taking the medication as recommended by your doctor or pharmacist. Medications may work differently depending on the individual, and it may be necessary to change the medication or dosage before the right combination is found.
Drug therapy does not offer a quick fix: people with OCD should not stop taking their medication and should actively adhere to their treatment so as not to risk a relapse. With time and hard work, a strong desire to change your behavior and the support of family and doctor, you can successfully overcome OCD.(3) (4) (5)
- Costa DL, Diniz JB, Miguel EC. How Similar Are the Disorders Included Under the Umbrella of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Related Disorders? JAMA psychiatry. 2016;73(8):877-877.
- Atmaca M. Treatment-refractory obsessive compulsive disorder. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. 2016;70:127-133.
- De Putter LM, Van Yper L, Koster EH. Obsessions and compulsions in the lab: A meta-analysis of procedures to induce symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Clinical psychology review. 2017;52:137-147.
- Hirschtritt ME, Bloch MH, Mathews CA. Obsessive-compulsive disorder: advances in diagnosis and treatment. Jama. 2017;317(13):1358-1367.
- Goodman WK, Rudorfer MV, Maser JD. Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Contemporary issues in treatment. Routledge; 2017.
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