What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder & How To Overcome It

Are obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors affecting your life? Obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD is a common mental disorder characterized by intrusive, obsessive thoughts and repetitive, compulsive actions.

Whether you’re a man, woman, or child, OCD can affect anyone. This mental health condition can cause serious difficulty in your life, but effective treatment can help you significantly.

What is obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive compulsive disorder, also known as obsessive compulsive neurosis, is a mental illness that involves unwanted, intrusive, and sometimes disturbing thoughts, urges, or fears (obsessions) that causes a lot of discomfort and anxiety.

As a result, the person tries to control the thoughts and urges and reduce their anxiety by engaging in repetitive mental acts or behaviors (compulsions). Such obsessions and compulsions can greatly interfere with a person’s ability to properly function and carry out daily activities.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines OCD as an anxiety disorder where “people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). The repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, checking on things or cleaning, can significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), obsessive-compulsive disorder “is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.”

Related: 5 Signs You Might Have OCD

The vicious cycle of OCD 

With OCD, your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors will become extremely consuming and uncontrollable. You will feel compelled to do something even when you realize that these obsessions and compulsions are irrational and unnecessary. However, you will be unable to stop, resist or break free from them.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is unlike common bad habits, such as biting fingernails or having negative thoughts. An obsessive may make you feel compelled to think that a specific number is lucky or unlucky for you. A compulsion may force you to wash your hands or face repeatedly, especially after touching something or going outside. You may feel reluctant to do such things or try to ignore the triggers, but you will feel helpless and that will add to your anxiety. 

These thoughts and behaviors will get stuck in your mind and you will be unable to shake off these urges despite how hard you try or engage in them. Although performing these intrusive and repetitive actions will provide you some short-term relief from the anxiety, you will be unable to enjoy them or obtain any pleasure from them. Whether you try to ignore them or indulge in them, the thoughts and urges will keep coming back to haunt you. This is the vicious trap of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Fast facts about OCD

Here are some quick, yet important OCD facts and statistics that you need to know about to better understand this condition:

  • According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), around 1.2% of U.S. citizens are affected by OCD.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder can also occur among children, adolescents and teenagers.
  • Studies have found that “Gender is a relevant factor” when evaluating OCD. It was also found that adult women are slightly more affected than adult men in the U.S.
  • Approximately, 1 in 100 American children and around 1 in 40 American adults suffer from OCD.
  • One study highlighted a reported case of OCD symptoms in a 4-year-oldgirl who was diagnosed with the condition. The study found that symptoms can appear “sometimes as early as 2 years.
  • The average age of OCD has been observed to be 19 years. However, in 25% of cases symptoms were seen by the age of 14.
  • Around 30% of victims first experience  obsessive compulsive disorder during childhood.
  • Another study revealed that childhood-onset OCD affects approximately 1-2% of children & adolescents.
  • A 1998 study by the NIMH found that among children and teenagers, boys are more likely to have this disorder before puberty as compared to girls.
  • In children, boys have a higher chance of having a family member with OCD than girls.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “OCD ranks tenth in the World Bank’s and WHO’s ten leading causes of disability and, in the case of women aged 15-44 years, OCD occupies the fifth position.
  • One study found that over 33% of individuals with OCD reported experiencing occupational disability. Moreover, about 38% of the subjects said they were “unable to work due to psychopathology.” 
  • According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), OCD is found equally in men and women.
  • Children with obsessive compulsive disorder can be effectively treated with therapy and medication with 60-70% children showing signs of significant improvement.
  • Therapy, along with medication is considered to be the most efficient treatment method for OCD 
  • 40-60% of people with OCD respond well to SSRI drugs & medication and they experience a 40-50% decrease in symptoms
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