Seven million people in the United States suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is a complex anxiety-based disorder which has two elements to it, obsessions and compulsions. Unfortunately for some, the symptoms experienced do not end there.
"OCD is sometimes accompanied by depression, eating disorders, substance abuse disorder, a personality disorder, attention deficit disorder or another of the anxiety disorders," states the NIMH. "Co-existing disorders can make OCD more difficult both to diagnose and to treat."
What exactly are obsessions and compulsions and how do they affect the sufferer? Obsessions are idea's or thoughts related to, or obsessed with, the excessive need for cleanliness or preventing contamination from some substance or another, which in the mind of the sufferer, at first seems rational. However, those that don't suffer the disease can clearly see the irrationality of their obsessions or fears. The fear that harm may come to themselves or their loved ones can lead them to perform repetitive actions such as ensuring that all the doors and windows in the home are securely shut, or that the iron is safely switched off, and such like. The sufferer is constantly striving for perfection and it is sometimes the fear of imperfection that drives their compulsive behaviour.thoughts are intrusive and distressing
Compulsions are tasks or rituals and their actions or behaviour mainly center around hand-washing, checking behaviour and counting actions performed. Sufferers are powerless to stop their compulsive behaviour even though they are consciously aware of the disorder and that it is controlling their behaviour. Compulsive symptoms often make it hard to diagnose OCD as compulsions alone are are not an indicator of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. hey are driven by fear that harm will come to them or loved ones if their compulsive behaviour does not satisfy their obsessive ideas. Because OCD is a anxiety-based disorder much of their compulsive behaviour is acted out in the desperate need to lower their anxiety which is very prevalent in OCD sufferers.
Unfortunately no clear cause that leads to a person developing OCD. There is however help for those that have OCD. Research points to a class of medication called serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SRIs) and selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that can help to reduce the symptoms of OCD. Once taken, weaning the person off the medication as relapse often occurs when a patient suddenly stops taking their medication.
Behaviour therapy is very effective for treating OCD and works to help reduce the compulsive behaviour of the person. It is important to note that just because someone shows traits of perfectionism or fixation does not necessarily indicate a diagnosis of OCD. Symptoms would need to disrupt the daily life of the sufferer such as spending a number of hours each day involved in performing rituals or repetitive actions such as washing of hands.
A high level of anxiety is associated with compulsive rituals. Compulsions actions or rituals that are performed by the sufferer in an attempt to alleviate the obsessional thoughts of OCD which they often find intrusive or distressing. Often the link between the compulsive actions and the scenario or situation they are intending to prevent, or keep themselves or others safe from, does not make any sense and is not realistic, such as not stepping on cracks in the side-walk for fear of falling through them.
OCD does not affect the individual alone but also creates a large burden on those who live with an OCD sufferer. With the help of a psychiatrist or other mental health professional, OCD can be treated successfully. A treatment plan using drugs as well as behaviour therapy is often the most successful route to take.