Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder where unreasonable thoughts and fears, or obsessions, lead a person to repetitive behaviors known as compulsions.
When individuals try to ignore or stop their thoughts or behaviors, they may become distressed until the only way to ease the distress is to engage in the thought or behavior. Often OCD revolves around a certain subject, such as fear of germ contamination, which could result in individuals compulsively washing their hands—even until they become painfully sore.
Someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder may realize their thoughts, fears or obsessions are not reasonable, but a person may not be able to stop. It’s one thing to be a perfectionist or like things spotlessly clean, but OCD can be a severe condition that may be so time-consuming that it interferes with a person’s ability to live a normal life—hours spent hand-washing every day etc.
The cause for the OCD isn’t completely understood, but it is likely genetic. Risks for developing OCD include a family history of the disorder.
A person with OCD may show some of the following signs.
- obsession/compulsion may have a theme such as fear of dirt or germs, need for order
and symmetry, aggressive impulses, or sexual thoughts
- afraid to shake hands or using things others have touched
- doubting actions like locking doors or turning off appliances
- thinking they’ve hurt someone in an accident
- distress when objects aren’t ordered a certain way
- replaying pornographic images in mind
- replaying a child’s death or injury
- skin issues such as lesions from picking at skin or hair loss from hair pulling
- washing and cleaning, counting, checking, or repeatedly performing actions
Adults often realize their condition is a problem, but children may not understand what’s happening. In adults the disorder usually develops around 21 years old, but in children it usually begins around age 10. Compulsive hoarding can sometimes be a symptom of OCD, and though it is currently considered a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder, many people who hoard don’t have other symptoms of OCD.
Though there’s no proven way to prevent OCD, getting help as soon as possible may help the disorder from worsening. Psychotherapy is one of the most effective treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Through therapy, individuals can learn to retrain ways of thinking, change routines, and learn techniques for managing their obsessions and compulsions. Depending on the circumstance, a combination of other treatments along with psychotherapy may lead to a better overall outcome.
For more information or to get help, please contact Marsha Schechtman, LCSW at 770.753.4911 or Howard Drutman, Ph.D. at 678.867.7020 at the Atlanta Behavioral Consultants.