What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition where a person is affected by unwanted, persistent obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are involuntary, recurrent thoughts that often cause repetitive, ritual-like behaviors called compulsions. It is possible to have either compulsions or obsessions, but most people who are diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) have both. Severe forms of OCD can interfere with a person’s social, occupational, or academic functioning, as OCD is in the top 10 most disabling conditions worldwide.
For example, a person with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) might have the constant thought that they are going to get sick. Hence, every time they go to the bathroom, they wash their hands, say, ten times. This repetitive behavior will not prevent them from getting sick, but it eases their worries about getting sick. If they did not wash their hands ten times every time, they would be in severe distress.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
As noted, there are two categories of symptoms for people with OCD.
Examples of obsession may include:
- Fear of sickness or contamination
- Stress when things aren’t orderly or in a certain pattern
- Unpleasant sexual images
- Unwanted violent images (e.g., being run over by a car).
These symptoms consist of intentional actions or behaviors that the individual feels compelled to perform. Usually, compulsive symptoms are done to ease the distress or anxiety caused by the obsessive symptoms. Some examples of compulsive symptoms are:
- Checking (e.g., checking if the door is locked over and over again)
- Repeating (e.g., washing hands ten times)
- Washing and cleaning obsessively and/or in a certain manner.
Causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
The causes of OCD are still unknown, but researchers have found some theories about possible causes.
Researchers have linked two genetic mutations to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). These mutations make it harder for serotonin to move around the brain. Serotonin is our happy chemical that promotes satisfaction and well-being. When it doesn’t move around properly, people can experience anxiety. OCD also tends to run in families.
Brain chemistry can play a role in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Impaired function in certain parts of the brain or problems with chemicals in the brain can contribute to OCD.
Obsessive and compulsive symptoms can be learned through watching a family member or loved one.
When Are Women at Greater Risk at Experiencing OCD Symptoms?
OCD usually onsets between childhood and early adulthood. Although Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD ) occurs in both men and women, women tend to have higher rates of OCD than men. OCD in women can be more intense during certain periods such as the pre-menstrual cycle. During this time, women with OCD often feel an increase in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) symptoms.
It is also common for women to first get their signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) during pregnancy or the postpartum period, collectively known as perinatal. Perinatal anxiety is common, but OCD is a specific kind of anxiety that is more common during the perinatal period. To have perinatal Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), you do not need to have both obsession symptoms and compulsive symptoms. It is common for women to have one or another.
Common obsessions in perinatal OCD
- Something bad happening to your baby/children, yourself, and/or your loved ones
- Hurting your baby and/or other people
- Excessive preoccupation with fetal movements
- SIDS (Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome)
Common compulsions in perinatal OCD
- Checking baby constantly
- Avoiding baby or certain activities associated with baby
- Excessive requests for fetal monitoring when not advised
Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
There are several types of treatments that can ease the symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Both behavioral therapy and medications can help people with OCD.
Exposure and Response Prevention:
A specific kind of therapy known as Exposure and Response Prevention, or ERP, can be used to treat Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In this type of therapy, a person is exposed to their triggers and taught to cope with the anxiety that it causes and stop the compulsions & obsessions associated with this anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
Another type of therapy, called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is also used as a treatment. Specifically, CBT helps the individual to identify and modify distorted beliefs that cause compulsive behaviors.
Most commonly, a type of medication called SSRIs are used. This medication helps regulate serotonin levels in the brain.
Frequently Ask Questions
A behavioral approach to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in pregnant women is the safest, but there are instances where medication is necessary. During pregnancy, a thorough conversation with your doctor about the safest treatment approach should be discussed.
The rates Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is slightly higher in women than men. Symptoms of OCD are usually more severe during times of hormonal changes within the body (pre-menstrual cycle, perinatal period).
Perinatal OCD is a specific type of OCD that occurs in women during or after pregnancy. It is likely a product of hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, family and personal history, genetics, and the new demands of caring for a newborn. Women with perinatal OCD do not always experience both obsessive and compulsive symptoms.
The information on this page, or elsewhere on this site, is not intended to take the place of diagnosis, treatment or informed advice from a qualified mental health professional. You should not take or avoid any action without consultation with the latter.
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