What is Obsessive compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a relatively common anxiety disorder characterized by upsetting and unwanted intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors the person feels compelled to perform. Symptoms of OCD may include unwanted doubts; anxiety-provoking thoughts about harm, contamination, sex, health, or religious themes; and rituals that feel necessary, such as excessive washing, cleaning, checking, praying, or counting. Oftentimes, the symptoms also include special, mental acts or thoughts designed to counteract or un-do upsetting, unwanted, or fearful thoughts.
What causes obsessive compulsive disorder?
No one knows for certain what causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The scientific research suggests that both biological and environmental factors are probably involved. Some researchers believe that there may be differences in brain chemistry between those who have OCD and those who don't. People with OCD have also been shown to have certain biases in their thinking. For example, some people with OCD believe that thinking about an action is the same as doing it or wanting to do that action. As a result, many people with OCD may think that it is very important to try and control their thoughts. People with OCD also sometimes believe that if they don't try to prevent harm, it's the same as if they were to cause harm directly. The good news is that regardless of the cause, OCD is treatable.
How common is obsessive compulsive disorder?
Although it often goes unrecognized, obsessive compulsive disorder is a relatively common type of anxiety disorder. Recent studies indicate that more than six million Americans currently have OCD. It appears to affect men and women equally and has been observed in children, adolescents, and adults.
When does it begin?
Obsessive compulsive disorder usually starts in adolescence, but it has been known to start in childhood or young adulthood. OCD affects men and women equally, but men are more likely to report an earlier onset of symptoms. Typically, symptom onset is gradually, but in some cases it has been known to develop suddenly, often in conjunction with stressful life events. It is not uncommon for symptoms of OCD to wax and wane. Some even find that their OCD fears change over the years. Many people with OCD can't remember exactly when it started, but will be able to notice when the symptoms first began to interfere with one's life. Without treatment, people with OCD are at higher risk of developing depression.
How is it treated?
The two most effective treatments for OCD are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication and cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT). SSRIs require relatively little effort on the part of the patient. However, they do have side effects and also improvements from medication are not permanent. In other words, when one eventually stops the medication the problems often come back. The greatest advantage of CBT is that the changes achieved through treatment are more likely to be permanent. However, psychotherapy requires work on the part of the patient such as assignments that must be completed during and in between sessions.
Exposure and ritual prevention is a specialized form of CBT for treating OCD. This treatment is designed to help you confront the situations and thoughts that cause you fear and help you learn to manage your anxiety without performing time-consuming, repetitive rituals.
How can I find out more about Drexel's Anxiety Treatment and Research Program?
The Drexel University Anxiety Treatment and Research Program provides treatment free of charge to eligible participants through the University's Department of Psychology. To learn more about the program, please call (215) 553-7000 or email us at email@example.com and provide us with your name and telephone number. Alternately, you can complete this contact form. However you choose to contact us, a member of our clinical team will be in touch with you promptly. Thank you for your interest!