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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder charactized by unwanted and repeated thoughts. The unwanted thoughts lead to bad feelings and ideas that can cause the person to behave irrationally.

The person suffering from OCD feels that acting on the unwanted thoughts will somehow make the thoughts disappear. This sometimes helps but only temporarily as the thoughts will eventually return and cause anxiety and bad feelings again.

Studies show that obsessive compulsive disorder is more common than mental health professionals thought. Part of the reason for the skewed data is that people don’t begin showing symptoms of the disorder until the age of 30.

The causes of OCD have not been discovered but some theories suggest that OCD can be linked to head injuries and infections. There are also several studies that show brain abnormalities in people suffering from the disease.

There are many types of OCD but the most talked about is the compulsion to wash the hands repeatedly in order to ‘get rid’ of germs in an effort to ward off infection. This is the most common known form of OCD because it is depicted on television more often than the other symptoms.

The person suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder recognizes that the behavior is excessive and unreasonable but cannot control the behavior. Often the disorder is self-diagnosed and the person seeks medical attention such as a doctor’s visit for a physical exam or a psychiatric evaluation.

Treatment usually begins with a medication called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or SSRI. Other medications can include:

Celexa (Citalopram)

Prozac (Fluoxetine)

Luvox (Fluvoxamine)

Paxil (Paroxetine)

Zoloft (Sertraline)

If the medications listed above do not help the patient doctors will prescribe an older type of antidepressant called tricyclic antidepressant. This medication works better than the newer antidepressants but the side effects are unpleasant so doctors will use this only if the other medications do not have a positive effect.

Doctors suggest combining the medication with psychotherapy in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as both treatments have the best outcomes for the patient.
CBT therapy exposes the patient to the situations that trigger the obsessive thoughts and over time the patient learns to tolerate OCD and resist the urge to perform the irrational behavior.

Many doctors use CBT because this form of treatment has proven to be the most effective type of psychotherapy for obsessive compulsive disorder.

Medication and CBT together are considered to be better than either treatment alone at reducing symptoms. Most people improve with treatment, but a completely symptom free period is unusual as OCD is a chronic illness that can take years to overcome.

OCD does not progress into other disease but can harm the person in other ways, for example, constant hand washing can irritate the skin and cause the skin to breakdown which may lead to infection.

There is no known prevention for this disorder but it is recommended to consult with a doctor or psychotherapist as soon as possible.