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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is a mental health condition where people experience persistent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and feel compelled to do repetitive actions (compulsions). These thoughts and actions can disrupt daily life and cause distress. It’s more common in males, often starting in childhood or early adulthood, affecting around 1.2% of adults in the United States each year.

Recognizing the Signs
Obsessions are irrational and recurring thoughts. People with OCD know these thoughts don’t make sense but can’t stop them. Examples include fears of hurting others, doubts about simple tasks, disturbing sexual thoughts, and worries about saying inappropriate things.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that temporarily relieve anxiety from obsessions. People feel driven to perform these actions, like excessive hand washing, counting, checking locks, or engaging in mental rituals.

Understanding the Causes
The exact cause is not known, but it may involve certain brain areas and genetics. If you or a family member has OCD, there’s a higher risk for others in the family to develop it.

Ways to Diagnose
Diagnosis is done by healthcare professionals. It requires obsessions or compulsions that cause distress, hinder daily life, and persist for at least an hour each day. A thorough medical evaluation is essential to rule out other potential causes.

Ways to Treat
Treatment usually involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Antidepressants like SSRIs can help reduce the intensity and frequency of obsessions and compulsions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention therapy (ERT) are effective in helping individuals manage their anxiety and regain control over their thoughts and actions.

While there is no cure for OCD, it can be effectively managed.

Related Conditions
Several related conditions share features with OCD but are considered separate disorders:

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Involves an obsession with physical appearance, leading to excessive preoccupation with one’s looks and potentially self-harming behaviors.
  • Hoarding Disorder: Characterized by accumulating a large number of seemingly worthless items, making living spaces unsafe.
  • Trichotillomania: Marked by compulsive hair-pulling, which can lead to injuries or ingesting hair.
  • Excoriation Disorder: Involves compulsive skin scratching or picking.

These disorders have similarities with OCD but also have distinct characteristics and treatment approaches.