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OCD: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is a common mental health disorder where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. This condition can affect anyone and some people start having symptoms early, often around puberty but it usually starts during early adulthood.

What are the Causes of OCD?

Some causes of this condition are:

  1. Biology. It may be a result of changes in your body’s natural chemistry or brain functions.
  2. Heredity. It may have a genetic component, but specific genes have yet to be identified.
  3. Learning. Obsessive fears and compulsive behaviors can be learned from watching family members or gradually learned over time.

Experts are not sure why people have this condition. Genetics, brain abnormalities, and environment are supposed to play a role. Also, stress can make symptoms worse. It often starts in teens or early adulthood but it can also start in childhood as well. Other anxiety depression, problems, substance abuse, or eating disorders may happen with OCD. Watch out for the factors that may increase your risk of the condition such as;

  • A history of physical or sexual abuse as a child
  • Physical differences in certain parts of your brain
  • A parent, siblings, or child with OCD
  • Experience trauma, depression, and anxiety

What are the Symptoms of OCD?

  • Fear of contamination or dirt
  • Doubting and having difficulty tolerating uncertainty
  • Needing things orderly and symmetrical
  • Aggressive thoughts about losing control and harming yourself or others
  • Unwanted thoughts, including aggression, or sexual or religious subjects

Compulsion symptoms include:

As with obsessions, compulsions typically have themes, such as:

  • Washing and cleaning
  • Counting
  • Following a strict routine
  • Orderliness
  • Checking
  • Demanding reassurance

How is OCD Diagnosed?

It is sometimes difficult to diagnose this condition because symptoms can be similar to those of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, depression, or other mental health disorders. The steps for diagnosis are:

  • Psychological evaluation. This includes talking about your thoughts, feelings, symptoms, and behavior patterns to determine if you have obsessions or compulsive behaviors that interfere with your quality of life. 
  • Using the criteria for OCD. Your doctor may use criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association.
  • Physical exam. This may be done to help rule out other problems that could be causing your symptoms and to check for any related complications.

Treatment for OCD

The goal of the treatment is to help bring symptoms under control so that they don’t rule your daily life. Depending on the severity of the condition, some people may need long-term, ongoing, or more intensive treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT therapy, and exposure and response prevention are typically recommended parts of the treatment. Doctors may also prescribe medications to control the obsessions and compulsions of this condition. Most commonly, antidepressants are tried first.

Paroxetine is a selective serotonin and reuptake inhibitor. It is used in the treatment of obsessive compulsion disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Generally, the goal is to effectively control symptoms at the lowest possible dosage. It’s not unusual to try several drugs before finding one that works well. Your doctor might recommend more than one medication to effectively manage your symptoms.

Care and Support for OCD

  • Learn about your condition to keep you motivated and empowered to follow the treatment plan. 
  • Stay focused on your goals in mind and remember that recovery is an ongoing process.
  • Reaching out to others facing similar challenges can provide you with support and help you cope with challenges.
  • Learn relaxation and stress management such as meditation, visualization, muscle relaxation, massage, deep breathing, and yoga may help ease stress and anxiety.
  • Work with your mental health professional to identify techniques and skills that help manage symptoms, and practice these regularly.

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