Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is characterized by obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or impulses that generate high levels of anxiety. Common examples of obsessions include the fear of contamination, repeated doubt, the need for exactness or symmetry, harming or aggressive thoughts, and unacceptable religious or sexual thoughts. Compulsions are some repetitive act, it could be another mental act (i.e., another thought) or a behavioral act done in an attempt to neutralize the obsessive thought, or get rid of the anxiety that it causes, or to somehow prevent the feared event from occurring. Common compulsions include washing and cleaning, checking, counting, ordering, repeating, praying, hoarding and seeking reassurance.
OCD is a very common and debilitating problem. Nearly 3% of Americans suffer from this condition. OCD is a chronic problem unless treated properly. The average age of onset for this condition is roughly 20 although it can occur in individuals much younger. It appears to affect men and women equally. The cause of OCD is unknown. Research appears to point to a biological cause that may be in part genetically influenced. The leading biological theory involves the brain chemical serotonin.
OCD is a very treatable condition. Certain antidepressant medications have been found to reduce symptoms. These medications may reduce OCD symptoms as much as 30-50% in most individuals. These medications all influence levels of serotonin.
The treatment of choice for OCD appears to be Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT for OCD consists of exposure and ritual prevention (ERP) and cognitive restructuring skills. These techniques have been found to produce success rates between 75 and 85% on average. For some, the most effective and efficient treatment may consist of a combination of medications and CBT.