Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurring thoughts that cause nervousness and panic. Obsessive thoughts lead to compulsive actions or rituals performed to alleviate anxiety symptoms. Any relief gained from performing such rituals is, however, only temporary – without obsessive compulsive treatment obsessive thoughts return, triggering another outbreak of compulsive behavior.
How Common is OCD?
According to WebMD approximately 3.3 million American Adults suffer from OCD. In addition, a further 1 million children and teens are affected by obsessive compulsive disorder. OCD symptoms tend to develop between childhood and early adulthood.
Most people have set schedules, routines and habits in their life. Usually these patterns can be altered without causing distress or anxiety attacks. People suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder have rigid patterns of behavior that significantly interfere with their daily lives.
OCD causes people to fixate on thoughts that won’t go away. These thoughts cause anxiety and fear. For instance, a person with OCD may be afraid of falling ill, making mistakes or hurting themselves. The person may have an overwhelming need for order and routine. Some people with obsessive compulsive disorder experience constant doubt about situations or their own abilities.
Obsessive thoughts lead to compulsive behaviors. Compulsive behaviors are designed to make obsessive thoughts go away or at least lessen anxiety symptoms. Compulsive behavior depends on the nature of obsessive thoughts. A fear of dirt, for instance, may be countered by repeatedly washing hands. A person with OCD may repeatedly check that the stove is off, or that the doors are locked. Items may need to be laid out in certain ways, or actions performed in a set sequence. Failure to perform these ritualistic behaviors can cause anxiety attacks and panic.
Performing compulsive behavior reduces anxiety symptoms. The relief, however, is temporary. Obsessive thoughts inevitably return, and can only be calmed by once again engaging in the compulsive behavior. People suffering from OCD are often aware that their compulsive behavior is unusual, but are unable to stop their thoughts and action without OCD treatment.
Obsessive Compulsive Treatment
Obsessive compulsive treatment focuses on both therapy and medication. OCD treatment must take into account that the anxiety disorder often occurs alongside other disorders. A person suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder may also require treatment for depression, eating disorders, phobias, panic attacks or learning disorders. OCD symptoms can be controlled with proper treatment.