Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an illness that causes people to have unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repeat certain behaviors (compulsions). People with OCD create habits that interfere with their daily lives.
OCD can cause distress and occupy over an hour of a suffering patient’s time each day. It is important for that individual’s loved ones to try and understand what he or she is experiencing by learning about the disease.
According to the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation, it is as though the brain gets stuck on a particular thought or urge and can’t let go. It is estimated that one in 50 adults suffers from OCD, and twice that many have suffered at some point in their lives.
Common obsessions with their responsive compulsions:
Contamination fears of dirt, germs, etc.
Imagining having harmed self or others
Imagining lost control of aggressive urges
Intrusive sexual thoughts or urges
Excessive religious or moral doubt
A need to have things “just so”
Hoarding or saving
A need to tell, ask or confess
There is no single proven cause of OCD, but research suggests that OCD stems from problems with the communication between the front part of the brain and the deeper structures. These brain structures use the chemical messenger serotonin, whose low levels are believed to be responsible for OCD. OCD is treatable, often by drugs that raise these serotonin levels. OCD may also be associated with other types of anxiety, like panic attacks and phobias. If you or a loved one has the symptoms of OCD, talk with your doctor.