Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a severe mental health condition. Individuals with OCD struggle with intrusive thoughts that make it difficult to focus on anything else. The other component of OCD is compulsive behavior geared toward quelling intrusive thoughts. This can manifest in many ways, such as excessive hand-washing, ordering, and symmetry, or checking and rechecking. There is no known cause of OCD, but there are some theories.
One theory suggests that a chemical imbalance could cause it in the brain. Another theory suggests that infection or inflammation could drive it in the brain. There is also some evidence to suggest that OCD could be genetic. There are several treatments for OCD, including medication and TMS therapy. Medication can help to regulate the chemicals in the brain that are thought to be involved in OCD. Therapy can help individuals to understand their thoughts and behaviors and to develop coping mechanisms for studying, working or personal relationships.
There are five ways to identify OCD in patients, including:
- The presence of obsessions, which are recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are intrusive and unwanted.
- The presence of compulsions, which are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the individual feels driven to perform in order to reduce anxiety or discomfort.
- The obsessions and compulsions cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
- The obsessions and compulsions are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., alcohol) or a general medical condition (e.g., diabetes).
- The disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g., autistic spectrum disorder, body dysmorphic disorder).
Common Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Symptoms?
With OCD, people have uncontrollable thoughts, which are often re-occurring thoughts. It’s challenging to maintain a normal relationship, work life, or academic career because of these intrusive thoughts. The signs and symptoms of OCD are numerous and vary widely from person to person. Where obsessions are concerned, a fear of contamination is real. But there are also other forms of obsessive behavior, such as taboo thoughts about sex, religion, or sadism. Self-harm or injury to others often factors into the list of obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms.
The top 10 most common OCD symptoms are:
- Excessive hand-washing
- Checking and rechecking
- Ordering and symmetry
- Repeating certain words or phrases
- Mental rituals
- Avoiding particular objects or situations
- Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
- Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder)
OCD compulsions are characterized by repetitive behaviors that people perform to quieten their pervasive thoughts. All of the above OCD symptoms are commonly reported. But it’s important to differentiate between habits and compulsions. The difference between voluntary and involuntary compulsions is apparent in OCD sufferers. For one thing, people with OCD cannot control the thoughts and actions they perform.
The duration of time spent ruminating about these obsessions and compulsions is extreme, with at least an hour a day of intense paralysis dedicated to OCD behavior. But it’s the effects of OCD that genuinely make this mental health disorder so crippling to sufferers. Virtually all severe cases of OCD place pressure on daily life. Studies show that:
- OCD can have a profound effect on employment, with one in three people with the disorder losing their job because of it.
- OCD can also lead to social isolation, as people with the disorder often avoid situations that trigger their obsessions and compulsions.
- People with OCD are also at an increased risk of developing depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders.
How to Determine Whether it’s OCD or Not?
A psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed mental health counselor can accurately determine whether you have OCD. They will conduct an interview and ask about your thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. They may also order tests, such as blood tests, to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. Be advised that there are no specific medical tests for OCD.
This psychiatric disorder is extremely distressful and marked by ritualistic-style behavior and compulsive actions. Mental health professionals such as therapists, counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists are best able to diagnose OCD. Self-diagnosis of OCD is not possible, nor is it recommended. Professionals use the Y-BOCS questionnaire, otherwise known as the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive.
Various medical tests for often requested to better understand what medical issues are presenting. These include CBC (complete blood count), metabolic function testing, and thyroid function. While the presence of a mental health disorder may be evident, it may be another disorder. These include Tourette’s syndrome, eating disorders, psychotic disorders, mood disorders, and generalized anxiety disorders.
The DSM-5 Manual is used to isolate and identify specific mental health disorders. The diagnostic criteria for OCD according to the DSM-5, include the presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both.
Obsessions are defined by the following:
a. Recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced, at some point during the disturbance, as invasive and unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.
b. The person attempts to ignore/suppress the thoughts, desires, or visuals or to neutralize them with other thoughts or actions (i.e., by performing a compulsive behavior).
c. The obsessions/compulsions are time-consuming (taking up more than an hour a day) or cause clinically significant difficulty in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Compulsions are defined by the following:
d. Repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand washing; ordering; constant checking) or mental actions (e.g., praying; silent repetition of words or phrases, counting) that the individual feels the need to perform in response to obsessions or according to rigid rule sets.
e. The behaviors/mental acts are geared towards preventing/reducing anxiety related to the obsessive thoughts/urges; but they either are not connected in an authentic way with what they were designed to neutralize/preventor they become excessive (as when repetitive handwashing results in tissue injury).
At some point during the disorder, the individual recognizes that his/her obsessions/compulsions are excessive and unreasonable They acknowledge that their obsessions are not simply worries about real-life problems and realize that their compulsions do not prevent/neutralize them nor provide any reasonable solution for them.
Impairment is also evident in terms of significant interference with daily activities as well as marked distress over having these symptoms. Differential diagnosis for OCD includes conditions like body dysmorphic disorder and Tourette’s syndrome
The DSM-5 manual presents all the criteria related to these disorders. The good news is that OCD is fully treatable, provided the proper regimen is selected. Medication, therapy, Deep TMS™, and surgical treatment options exist.