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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common anxiety disorder. This article helps define obsessive-compulsive disorder and discusses OCD treatment options. Find out the signs and symptoms associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and how to treat OCD.

What Is Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder (abbreviated OCD) is categorized as an anxiety disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV-TR (DSM-IV). This places it in a group with other anxiety disorders—including panic disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—and phobias—such as social phobia and agoraphobia. Although it is fairly common, it is not always recognized, and its effects can be fairly mild or quite disabling.

Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder is characterized by one or both of the two components referred to in its name: obsessions and compulsions. These are two different, but often inter-related, issues.

An obsession goes beyond excessive worries about real problems. It involves thoughts, impulses for action, or mental images that are inappropriate and/or seem “crazy” to the person who has them and are recognized to be products of the person’s own mind, but nevertheless recur and persist, disrupting the life of the person who has them. A person with an obsession tries to either ignore, suppress, or neutralize the thoughts, using a counter-thought or action.

A compulsion is wither the counter-thought or action that the person takes to deal with the obsession (even though they don’t have a realistic connection with the content of the obsession) or rituals that are performed according to rigid rules, but not in response to an obsession.

Frequently experienced obsessions include a fear of contamination, which may be connected to the compulsion of hand-washing or cleaning, or doubts about previous actions (leaving the stove on, locking the door), which may lead to repeated checking to be sure things were done, or a need for order or precise arrangement, which may lead to straightening or ordering things. In this schema, hoarding is considered as a compulsion and a subset of OCD.

Note that OCD is different from Obsessive–Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), which is a disorder in which an individual is characterized throughout their whole life as preoccupied with order and perfection with a parallel diminution of flexibility and openness.

Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

OCD occurs chronically, but OCD does not in and of itself lead to other disorders or illnesses. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder treatments include the use of therapy and medications, and improvement is usually seen with treatments.  OCD treatment with medication often starts with the type of antidepressant called an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor), such as Prozac, Paxil, or Zoloft. A second line of treatment includes tricyclic antidepressants, but these can have more problematic side effects.

A therapeutic approach that is often used and seems most effective is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and when combined with medication, has been shown to have the best possibility of reducing symptoms.

Related Article: When to Seek Help >>

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