Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder that affects approximately 2.2 million American adults each year. OCD is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as being characterized by repetitive thoughts, images, impulses or actions that are distressing, time consuming or that affect function.
Individuals who have OCD experience unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions).
OCD can start at any time from preschool to adulthood, but there are generally two age ranges when it first appears: between ages 8 and 12 and between the late teens and early adulthood.
The cause of OCD is not completely understood. Some experts believe that OCD is related to insufficient levels of serotonin in the brain, and imaging studies show different patterns of brain activity in those with OCD. OCD also tends to run in families.
For OCD to be diagnosed, you must meet these general criteria:
Treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be accomplished through behavioral therapy and medication. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that those who received cognitive behavioral therapy in addition to medication showed more improvements than those who only took medication.
One therapeutic approach, called exposure and response prevention, involves gradual exposure to a feared object or obsession, such as dirt, and providing healthy ways to cope with resulting anxiety.
Learning the techniques and new thought patterns takes effort and practice, but a better quality of life can be enjoyed once obsessions and compulsions are managed.
Antidepressants may be helpful for OCD because they may help increase levels of serotonin, which may be lacking in individuals with OCD.