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

obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms causes and treatment

Causes Of OCD

The causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder are still unknown. However, there are certain risk factors. Here are some of the prominent risk factors according to NIMH.

1. Genetics

This mental disorder might involve a genetic aspect, but scientists are yet to identify the specific genes. Studies have found that “OCD is familial, and results from twin studies demonstrate that the ‘familiality’ is due in part to genetic factors.”

Research has revealed that if you have a first-degree family member, like a parent, sibling, or child, with OCD, then you are more likely to be affected by the disorder. However, your level of risk will be higher if your family member developed the disorder during their childhood or teen years.

2. Neurological factors

Lesion, surgical, and imaging studies indicate “that the prefrontal cortex (orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortexes), basal ganglia, and thalamus are involved in the pathogenesis of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).” Imaging studies have also found that OCD patients have differences in the subcortical structures & frontal cortex of the brain.

Another 2013 study on ‘Brain Structural Alterations’ in OCD patients stated “Our study assessed the regional gray matter volume alterations of OCD patients with autogenous and reactive obsessions. In comparison to autogenous patients, reactive patients showed a larger gray matter volume in the right Rolandic operculum. Also, when compared to healthy controls, patients with reactive obsessions showed a larger caudal putamen.

It is believed that there is a connection between anomalies in specific areas of the brain and OCD symptoms. However, the particular nature of the connection is yet to be known. 

3. Childhood trauma

According to NIMH, obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms may also be a result of childhood trauma. One 2002 study indicates that childhood trauma may play a crucial role in the development of OCD and trichotillomania.

Another 2008 study analyzed the connection between OCD symptoms, personality traits, and childhood trauma. It revealed that “There was a small but significant association between obsessive-compulsive symptoms and childhood trauma, specifically emotional abuse and physical neglect.”

Around 13-30% of the subjects in the study had experienced trauma and emotional neglect during their childhood. The study also discovered an “independent association” between ‘‘probable obsessive-compulsive disorder’’ and physical and emotional abuse.

Related: How To Heal From Childhood Trauma When Its Hampering Your Mental Health

4. Autoimmune factors

NIMH also reported that children may experience OCD symptoms due to a streptococcal infection. This is known as PANDAS or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections.

5. Stressful life events

You are also likely to develop OCD symptoms due to stressful or traumatic life events as well. Although stressful life events (SLEs) may not directly result in OCD symptoms, such events can seriously trigger obsessive-compulsive disorder, especially if you are vulnerable on a genetic level. Moreover, your symptoms may even get more severe if you generally experience more stress and anxiety than usual.

According to a 2012 study, which examined 329 patients, at least one stressful life event “preceded the onset of OCD in 200 patients (60.8%), and this was significantly associated with female gender, abrupt onset of the disorder and somatic obsessions.” Moreover, the study identified 3 specific SLEs that may be closely associated with OCD symptoms:

  • Hospitalization of a family member
  • Major personal physical illness
  • Loss of personally valuable object

6. Other mental health issues

Apart from the risk factors mentioned above, OCD may also be developed due to other disorders and mental health problems like depression, anxiety disorders, tic disorders, Tourette syndrome, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), substance abuse, etc. One 2010 study discovered that obsessive-compulsive disorder may develop “in the context of other neuropsychiatric disorders, most commonly other anxiety and mood disorders.

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Theo Harrison

Hey there! I am just someone trying to find my way through life. I am a reader, writer, traveler, fighter, philosopher, artist and all around nice guy. I am outdoor person but heavily into technology, science, psychology, spiritualism, Buddhism, martial arts and horror films. I believe in positive action more than positive thinking.View Author posts