What Are Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders?
Obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) are a type of anxiety in which individuals experience repeated thoughts or sensations (obsessions) that drive them to engage in repetitive behaviors or thoughts (compulsions). This pattern becomes rigid and fails to provide lasting relief. Examples of compulsions include handwashing, cleaning, constant double-checking, or picking at hairs or skin. This combination of unwanted thoughts and driven behaviors can interfere with daily activities and cause social embarrassment or isolation. Approximately 1.2% of Americans have a form of OCD. These disorders begin in childhood. In adults, females are diagnosed somewhat more often than males.
Subtypes of Obsessive-Compulsive disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder
- Hoarding Disorder
- fear of germs or dirt
- hours of hand washing or cleaning
- frequently repeating names or phrases
- rechecking (“Did I lock the door?”) many times a day
- constantly arranging items “just so”
- ruminating on forbidden sexual or religious thoughts
- frequent counting (saying numbers in a certain pattern out loud or to yourself)
Diagnosis and Treatment
OCD can at times be difficult to diagnose because people with other disorders such as anxiety or depression can have similar symptoms. It is also possible to have OCD along with other mental health issues so a differential diagnosis is important. These are typically made by mental health professionals who conduct an extensive clinical interview, gather information from others who know the person well, and may at times include physical exams or lab tests to rule out physical explanations such as thyroid functioning. Treatment usually involves a combination of medication and therapy. Anti-depressants are frequently used to help the person reduce daily stress and improve mood functioning. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure and response intervention (ERP) can, over time, help the individual develop healthier ways to cope with the thoughts or situations that trigger the OCD behaviors.
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