What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
We’ve all seen characters in movies who have OCD or heard someone be called “OCD,” but those examples don’t give the whole picture and usually aren’t helpful. Obsessive compulsive disorder is a chronic condition in which a person has uncontrollable recurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that a person feels the urge to keep repeating. These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily life and make it difficult for the person to do even ordinary things like leaving the house or getting dressed.
Where does OCD come from?
The causes of obsessive compulsive disorder are not clearly known, but there is a list of several possible causes of OCD to consider.
GeneticsStudies have shown that genetics are involved, though no specific genes have been confirmed as the cause.
Chemistry and physiologyIn some cases, your child’s own brain structure or chemistry could play a part.
Coping and learningThey may also develop these behaviors as a way to cope with stressful events they experience or learn these behaviors from those around them, such as triple-checking the front door lock six times whenever they leave the house.
Other conditionsOCD can accompany or be related to other conditions such as anxiety disorder, depression, or substance abuse. For this reason, a psychiatric assessment will be part of the diagnosis process.
In order to determine exactly what is going on, an experienced mental health professional will take all of these possibilities into account. That’s one thing we pride ourselves on – seeing your child or loved one as a whole person, not just a collection of symptoms and test results.
What OCD symptoms should I look for?
This is a lot to consider and we understand how overwhelming it can be, so here’s a short list that could help you determine if it’s time to contact us or another mental health professional. If you still have questions, as you might because this isn’t an exhaustive list, ask. We’re always here to talk with parents and anyone else who needs a little help knowing what to do next.
Obsessions (i.e., repetitive thoughts):fear of contamination, unwanted forbidden thoughts, aggressive thoughts toward self or others, or fantasizing about having things in perfect order
Compulsions (i.e., urges for repetitive behaviors):excessive cleaning or hand washing, arranging things in precise ways, repeatedly checking on things, or compulsive counting
How is OCD treated?
Obsessive compulsive disorder can be treated with medications and cognitive behavior therapies such as habit reversal training and exposure/response prevention. Like so many others, OCD cannot be cured, but a person can learn skills to deal with it. That’s the good news. Many children live happy, successful lives despite having obsessive compulsive disorder.