Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
What are obsessions?
Obesessions are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems but are repeated, unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses that are experienced as instrusive and inappropriate and cause significant anxiety. The person attempts to ignore or suppress the obsessions or to neutralize them with some other thought or action.
What are compulsions?
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors, like washing hands or checking, or mental acts, ke counting or praying. The person feels driven to perform the compulsion in response to an obsession and may apply rigid rules in completing them. The compulsion is meant to prevent or minimize anxiety or keep some dreadful occurence from happening. Sometimes the compulsions are connected in a realistic way to the obsession, like avoiding germs by handwashing, but are excessive, like washing hands 50 times per day. Sometimes the compulsions are not realistically connected to what they are intended to prevent, like needing to chew each bite of food 20 times in order to keep family members safe from automobile accidents. This is called using magical thinking.
When do obsesions or compulsions become a problem and need to be treated?
A person should seek professional evaluation if one or more of the following may be true:
when they cause the person significant distress
when they are time-consuming (take more than 1 hour per day)
when they interfer with the person's functioning (daily routine, work or school, social activities or relationships)
*The person may or maynot realize the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable.
Common OCD Themes
Dirt or Contamination
example: "I touched the doorknob that others have touched, so I am contaminated"
Doubt and Checking
example: "Maybe I didn't complete the application honestly and accuratley before I turned it in"
example: "Did I deliberatly touch a child sexually?"
Harm or Injury to Self or Others
example: "Did I accidentally run over someone with my car?"
example: "I bet I have cancer spreading in my body right now"
Symmetry or Exactness
example: "If I'm using the right side of my body too much, I must use the left side to makeup for it"
example: "There is a chance I will need to use this in the future"
example: "I must have disappointed God in my actions today"
Between 1% and 2% of the general population will develop OCD.
Development of OCD
Typically gradual with men having an earlier age of onset than women. Those between the ages of 18 and 24 are at highest risk for developing OCD; 65% develop the disorder before the age of 25. Half to two-thirds of those with OCD reported having experienced a significant life event before the onset of OCD. Many of those with OCD, however, cannot identify a trigger for the development of the disorder. Considerable stress may be experienced by family members living with an OCD sufferer by attempts to stop the symptoms or enabling the ritualistic behavior.
Article by the National Institute for Mental Health
The above information was obtained from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition Test Revision (DSM-IV-TR) and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for OCD by David Clark
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