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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) : Symptoms,Treatment & causes

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

Do you feel like your mind is consumed with repetitive thoughts, or do you find yourself constantly engaging in repetitive behaviours? If so, you may be suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which is considered as an anxiety disorder. OCD can be a debilitating condition and can make it difficult for individuals to complete day-to-day activities. This article will provide you an overview of this condition including its symptoms, causes, treatment options and answers to frequently asked questions.




What is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which an individual experiences intrusive thoughts that produce fear, worry, and uneasiness. People with OCD may have rituals, or routines, such as cleaning, counting or checking, that they feel compelled to repeat over and over in order to ease their worries. 

Signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Common signs of OCD include excessive organising and cleaning, compulsive checking, compulsive counting, hoarding, intense perfectionism, and frequent thoughts of doubt or fear. 

  • People with this disorder may often be preoccupied with details, lists, or schedules, and may have difficulty with decision-making and problem-solving. 

  • These individuals may experience repetitive movements such as hand washing or may excessively repeat certain behaviours or words.

  • People with OCD may also demonstrate repetitive counting patterns or rituals and may display a heightened sensitivity to certain sounds or images. 

  • Some people may experience intrusive thoughts or images, anxiety and depression, which can lead to difficulty with concentration or sleeping. 

Common obsessions include a fear of being contaminated or contaminated by germs, a need to arrange items in a certain way, or thoughts that something bad may happen. 

Common compulsions include handwashing, counting, or repeating words or phrases over and over. 

Other signs of OCD may include avoidance of certain people, places, and activities, as well as fear of making mistakes or not doing something “right.”

Causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The exact cause of OCD is unknown, but experts believe it to be a combination of biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

1. Biological factors

According to research, genetics may be a factor in the development of OCD. Studies have shown that having family members with the disorder increases a person’s risk of developing the condition. Also, studies say that OCD may be caused due to an imbalance of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for sending signals between nerve cells.

2. Environmental factors

Stressful life events, such as a death in the family, job loss, or a traumatic experience, can trigger OCD in some people.

3. Psychological factors

Anxiety caused by fear, doubt, or perfectionism can be a contributing factor to OCD. Poor coping skills, negative thoughts, and a strong need for control can also increase the risk of developing the disorder. Also ,research has found a link between OCD and other mental health conditions ,such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There may also be a link between OCD and autism spectrum disorder. 

Different types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The five main types of OCD are as follows.

  1. Checking: The individual engages in frequent checking of items, such as locks, stoves, or alarm systems. This is done to ensure nothing bad will happen.

  2. Contamination: The person is preoccupied with the fear of contamination from dirt or germs and involves frequent washing, cleaning, or sanitising.

  3. Hoarding: The individual is overcome with the need to save and hoard items of little or no value.

  4. Ruminations: The person is overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts and worries that are usually irrational.

  5. Symmetry: The individual has an intense need for things to appear perfectly symmetrical and spends time ensuring that every small detail is perfectly aligned.

Regardless of type, OCD can have a significant impact on a person’s life. It is important to speak with a mental health professional if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Treatment usually involves a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.

Diagnosing OCD

The diagnosis is based on the patient's self-reported symptoms, which include obsessions (recurrent thoughts, and impulses that are experienced as intrusive or distressful) and compulsions (repetitive behaviours in which an individual feels driven to perform as a result of obsessions). The doctor may also use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria to determine whether the symptoms meet the criteria for a diagnosis of OCD.

The doctor may also look for related mental health problems that commonly occur with OCD, such as depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders. Questions about family history, lifestyle, and environmental factors may also be asked to get a better understanding of the person's overall health and well-being.

Treatment options for OCD

Treatment for OCD usually involves both psychotherapy and medication.

Psychotherapy: Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is the primary type of psychotherapy used to treat OCD. CBT focuses on helping people face and manage their obsessions and compulsions, as well as identify and recognize inaccurate and distorted thinking patterns that are contributing to their disorder. 

Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a form of CBT that usually involves gradually exposing someone to a feared situation and teaching them to resist performing the compulsive behaviour. ERP has been found to be one of the most effective treatments for OCD. Other forms of psychotherapy, including psychodynamic therapy, may also be used to treat OCD. 

Medication: Antidepressants are the primary type of medication used to treat OCD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the commonly prescribed medications for OCD, as they help reduce the severity of obsessions and compulsions. 

Common SSRIs include fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, citalopram and escitalopram. Tricyclic antidepressants and certain antianxiety medications are also sometimes used in the treatment of OCD.

Tips for managing OCD

Here are some tips you can incorporate in your life to manage your obsessions and compulsions.

Develop a strategy: OCD is a disorder that is best managed with a personalised strategy developed in consultation with a mental health professional. This may include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help change unhelpful thinking and behaviour patterns, or antidepressant medications to reduce symptoms.

Practice mindfulness: Remind yourself that obsessing or engaging in rituals does not get rid of anxiety, but instead prolongs it. Use mindfulness techniques to stay in the present moment and detach from anxious thoughts, images or urges.

Break compulsions: When experiencing obsessive thoughts or feelings of urge to do compulsions, acknowledge the symptom and then move on to another activity. Learning to tolerate uncomfortable feelings and trying to understand that these sensations will pass, can help reduce OCD symptoms over time.

Challenge core beliefs: People with OCD often have deeply entrenched beliefs, such as ‘everything needs to be perfect’, or ‘I must be in control at all times’. Questioning and challenging these beliefs will weaken their hold over thoughts and behaviours.

Establish a daily routine: OCD symptoms can be exacerbated when a person feels overwhelmed or out of control. Establishing and sticking to an orderly daily routine can help regulate mood and provide a sense of predictability which can reduce OCD symptoms.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some common queries with answers related to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.


How do I know if what I am going through is OCD or not?

If your thoughts and behaviours are causing daily distress and significantly interfering with your daily life, it may be an indication that you are struggling with OCD. In order to accurately diagnose OCD, professional evaluation is needed.

What is the root cause of OCD?

The exact cause of OCD is not fully understood. Many experts believe that a combination of genetic, neurochemical, psychological, and environmental factors is involved in the development of OCD. Research suggests that family history and genetic factors can increase a person's risk of developing this condition, while environmental stressors may be a trigger.

Does OCD go away permanently?

OCD is a chronic illness, so it is not likely that it will ever go away permanently. However, with effective treatment, people with OCD can learn to manage their symptoms and lead satisfying lives.

What will happen if OCD is not treated?

If OCD is not treated, it can severely interfere with daily activities and can lead to depression, anxiety, and social isolation. People with untreated OCD may feel stuck in a cycle of intrusive thoughts, compulsive behaviour, and emotional distress that can have a negative impact on overall quality of life. They may feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about the OCD symptoms, leading to a sense of loneliness and hopelessness.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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