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Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry; by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety; or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions.

A compulsion is an unreasonable need to behave in a certain way. An obsession is an unpleasant or irrational idea or thought that lodges in the mind. Obsessional mental activity often leads to compulsive behavior.

At one time or another most people have minor obsessions and compulsions. As an example: One day, you may not be able to get a popular tune out of your head. You are obsessed with it. Or you may irrationally feel compelled to walk to work every day on the same side of the street. You may check several times to make sure you turned off the oven or unplugged the blow dryer. However, when these thoughts or acts become so intense and persistent that they interfere with normal life, you probably need to get psychiatric help. In such cases a person has an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

What are the symptoms?

  • Obsessions take hold gradually. Being intensely interested in a topic such as politics, religion, or hygiene does not qualify. True obsessions are unwelcome, intrusive, irrational thoughts that are upsetting. Some thoughts may often be sexual or religious. If, for instance, you have become obsessed with the idea that burglary is rampant, you may feel a compulsion to test your front door again after you have already locked it securely. This is a relatively harmless compulsion. Some people, however might carry this too far by getting out of bed repeatedly during the night to test a door over and over again.

  • Compulsive disorders center on your rational fears. Some people become obsessed with fear of "germs" and wash their hands endlessly. Such a person may realize his or her behavior is irrational, but attempts to resist and overwhelming compulsion cause intense anxiety, which can be relieved only by giving in to the compulsion.

How is OCD treated?
  • First, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Your doctor should do an exam to make sure that another physical problem isn't causing the symptoms. The doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist.

  • OCD is generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both.

  • Psychotherapy - A type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavior therapy is especially useful for treating OCD. It teaches a person different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations that help him or her feel less anxious or fearful without having obsessive thoughts or acting compulsively. One type of therapy called exposure and response prevention is especially helpful in reducing compulsive behaviors in OCD.

  • Medication -Doctors also may prescribe medication to help treat OCD. The most commonly prescribed medications for OCD are anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants. Anti-anxiety medications are powerful and there are different types. Many types begin working right away, but they generally should not be taken for long periods.

  • Antidepressants are used to treat depression, but they are also particularly helpful for OCD, probably more so than anti-anxiety medications. They may take several weeks—10 to 12 weeks for some—to start working. Some of these medications may cause side effects such as headache, nausea, or difficulty sleeping. These side effects are usually not a problem for most people, especially if the dose starts off low and is increased slowly over time. Talk to your doctor about any side effects you may have.

  • It's important to know that although antidepressants can be safe and effective for many people, they may be risky for some, especially children, teens, and young adults. A "black box"—the most serious type of warning that a prescription drug can have—has been added to the labels of antidepressant medications. These labels warn people that antidepressants may cause some people to have suicidal thoughts or make suicide attempts. Anyone taking antidepressants should be monitored closely, especially when they first start treatment with medications.

Some people with OCD do better with cognitive behavior therapy, especially exposure and response prevention. Others do better with medication. Still others do best with a combination of the two. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment for you.

What should be done?
  • If you feel that any of your ideas or actions are slipping out of control, consult your physician , who will probably refer you to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional for therapy. Treatment for mild cases of this disorder is usually based on an effort to reassure you while trying gradually to discover what lies behind your compulsive behavior. 

  • Compulsions can sometimes be treatment by a type of therapy that is known as desensitization. Psychotherapy may also be used. Many psychiatrist as well as the health professionals believe that the anxiety that underlies such symptoms should be treated with psychotherapy, and in some cases also treated with medication.

  • For many people, antidepressants and tranquilizer medications also help reduce depression and anxiety, which are symptoms that commonly accompany an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

What are the signs of OCD?
People with OCD generally:
  • Have repeated thoughts or images about many different things, such as fear of germs, dirt, or intruders; acts of violence; hurting loved ones; sexual acts; conflicts with religious beliefs; or being overly tidy

  • Do the same rituals over and over such as washing hands, locking and unlocking doors, counting, keeping unneeded items, or repeating the same steps again and again

  • Can't control the unwanted thoughts and behaviors

  • Don't get pleasure when performing the behaviors or rituals, but get brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts cause

  • Spend at least 1 hour a day on the thoughts and rituals, which cause distress and get in the way of daily life.